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With reservations, Washington area restaurants back Va. liquor plan

Rosalind Helderman

After Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) dropped new fees for restaurants from his liquor privatization proposal Thursday, the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, which represents eateries statewide, formally endorsed the plan.

Now the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which represents 700 restaurants in the D.C. region, including Northern Virginia, is offering its support as well--but with some reservations.

"RAMW is pleased that the Governor is listening to our industry and is taking this initiative in the right direction," Claude Andersen, chairman of the group's board of directors and Director of Operations of Clyde's Restaurant Group, said in a statement.

However, Andersen said his members remain concerned that a $17.50 per gallon excise tax, as proposed by McDonnell, would "put an undue burden on consumers."

Meanwhile, the numbers in McDonnell's proposal will be getting a thorough scrubbing from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. JLARC's director informed a state senator Friday that his staff will complete a study of the proposal by the end of October.

In an email to state Sen. Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania), who had requested JLARC take a look at McDonnell's plan, director Glen S. Tittermary said he has assigned four full-time staffers and one part-time analyst to the project. The group has already started holding meetings with staff for the governor and other agencies, he wrote.

Releasing a report at the end of October would mean the General Assembly could have JLARC's analysis in hand in time for a November special legislative session, if McDonnell were to call one. The governor has said he'd like to see the legislature take up the issue this fall but he will only convene a session if he believes he has the votes to pass his plan.

Finally, a last liquor note of the day

Dennis P. Gallagher of the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association has released the following statement on behalf of the beer and wine wholesalers about a poll released earlier Friday that shows public support for privatization. In a call with reporters, the pollsters for the group acknowledged that staff for McDonnell's political action committee Opportunity Virginia, which funded the poll, helped craft its questions. It was released by a group of retailers who are pushing privatization.

"As most people know, the way survey questions are worded usually goes a long way in determining the outcome of the survey," Gallagher said. "We wonder what the results would have been if the question were posed this way: 'Would you favor or oppose privatizing ABC if it means a $47 million loss in state funding for education, mental health, public safety and other core state services?'"

The latest version of McDonnell's plan would result in the state's general fund receiving $47 million less in alcohol revenues next year than it would under the current system.

By Rosalind Helderman  | October 1, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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