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New coalition forms to push for liquor privatization

Rosalind Helderman

Grocery stores and other retail outlets that favor privatizing the sale of alcohol in Virginia have quietly formed a coalition to make a major legislative and public push for the idea once Gov. Bob McDonnell brings forward his plan to sell state-run stores.

The ABC Privatization Coalition was officially formed June 30, according to paperwork filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The group listed Matthew Kirsner as its registered agent, a lawyer who works with the lobbying firm Eckert Seamans, whose clients include the Virginia Retail Merchants Association and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, both groups that favor the idea.

Among the retail outlets steering the new coalition are grocery chains that sell beer and wine, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Safeway and Food Lion, according to a source familiar with its founding.

The coalition group is getting its ducks in a row, preparing for a fall push for McDonnell's privatization proposal. The proposal will probably be the state's big legislative showdown of the fall and possibly of McDonnell's whole term in office.

The state has controlled the wholesale and retail sale of distilled spirits in Virginia for 76 years. McDonnell promised during last year's campaign that he would privatize the stores, collecting several hundred million in cash to put toward the state's crumbling transportation network. Democrats have expressed deep skepticism about the idea because the stores provide more than $200 million a year in steady revenue for the state's general fund.

McDonnell's staffers have been quietly meeting with industry representatives and others for weeks. They hope to propose some ideas for privatization next month.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 13, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Next: Updated: McDonnell denies lifting state ban on bottled water at the behest of the industry


the problem is, if the state allows all these stores to start selling liquor (Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Safeway and Food Lion), it will greatly diminish the value of the ABC stores the state wants to sell (and is planning to reap a windful from).
So the state could wind up with a considerable amount of comercial real estate and no buyers given the current economic situation.
So no windfall, and a loss of $200 million a year in income.

its a lose/lose situation.

Posted by: MarilynManson | July 14, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Time to end the socialist liquor system. Privatize Now!

Posted by: PWConservative | July 14, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Liquor Privatization: or how Bob McDonnell will kill $200 Million in annual revenue for the state. This plan will only work if by expanding the number of places that can sell liquor, the state picks up more revenue from the sales taxes than the direct sale of the liquor. Of course, if that happens, then McDonnell "the ...I'll never raise taxes" Republican governor will have broken his pledge not to raise taxes. He will also have turned Virginia into a state of more alcoholics. Great plan Bob.

Posted by: peter49 | July 15, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I actually work for ABC and let me inform all of you the state of Virginia is already exploiting their ABC employees. Privatization would be an improvement, in my opinion. I work on average 40 hours per week and have no benefits or even an option, no sick or vacation time and the stores are only closed on 3 unpaid holidays per year (Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day). Most retail businesses offer some or all of the items mentioned above. They advertise 5 billion dollars returned to the Commonwealth in the past 5 years but they never mention it comes at the cost of hard working men and women being treated like expendable assets.

Posted by: tommyj2k | July 18, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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