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Board Warns of Ill Consequences from State Liquor Plan

by ARLnow.com October 27, 2010 at 8:05 am 3,642 109 Comments

County board members are not big fans of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to privatize state liquor stores. At yesterday’s board meeting, members took turns bashing various aspects of the plan.

“It does not come anywhere near funding the transportation needs of the state,” Barbara Favola said, of the plan’s stated goal of helping to fill the $20 billion worth of unfunded transportation needs in Virginia.

“Four-hundred-fifty million dollars is nothing,” said Chris Zimmerman, referring to the estimated one-time revenues that selling state-run ABC stores and auctioning off liquor licenses could provide. He said that one estimate puts the additional amount needed for transportation in Northern Virginia at $500 million per year.

Jay Fisette worried about the loss of the state’s lucrative ABC business, which provides millions each year to fund human services programs. That revenue, he said, would be lost under the plan, choking off the state’s already shrinking human services budget.

Also a concern was the number of new liquor stores and liquor-licensed grocery and convenience stores that could be approved under the plan. Zimmerman cited a report saying the number of stores selling liquor in Arlington would increase from 8 to 26.

“I think this has great potential to affect our community in a negative manner,” said Mary Hynes. She said it would be easier for teens to buy liquor from grocery stores than it currently is to buy liquor from the state-run ABC stores.

“The more ABC stores we have in Arlington, the more resources you’ll need at a local level” in terms of police and public health authorities, Favola said. She added that “there will be more noise-related issues” as a result of adding more liquor stores.

Walter Tejada said that additional liquor stores could be harmful to the minority population, which he said has a “disproportionally high” rate of alcoholism.

“This is not a good direction to be moving,” Tejada said.

Favola is expected to propose a resolution regarding the state ABC plan in December. The state legislature is expected to take up the plan in January.

  • Bluemont John

    I’m no fan of the County Borg, but I agree with them on this one. The last thing we need is more liquor stores. At least the state-run ABC stores don’t have vagrants hanging around–unlike the privately operated 7-11s, even without selling liquor.

  • Chris

    The concern about replacing the current ABC store income is legitimate. The long-term economic effects of privatization could be quite serious absent an increase in income from other sources. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the fees and taxes generated from the private sale of liquor is not expected to replace the current income generated from ABC stores.

    However, I’m not so sure that we have to be worried that Giant or Harris Tetter are now going to become rowdy hangouts for drunkards. These stores already sell beer and wine – including some rather low-cost brands – and yet, despite their current alcohol sales, these stores are not generating significant public health or law enforcement concerns due to alcohol sales and consumption.

    • Frenchy B

      Agreed – my only concern with the privatization plan is the long-term loss of state revenue. The “Won’t someone think of the children” argument rings hollow.

  • Courthouse Resident

    Agree completely. This is like saying you’ll get a nice big holiday bonus this year but after that you won’t get a regular paycheck anymore. The ABC stores provide that steady income and getting rid of that for a small pile of cash is a poor decision.

    • TGEoA

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but arent ABC stores staffed by state employees?

      Going private would save money.

      • Courthouse Resident

        If you go by that logic then every company should get rid of their employees since they are an expense. The ABC stores generate revenue – consistently. Cause we all like to drink.

  • Kevin

    Nobody cares that consumers may actually like the current system?

    Not only are there multiple stores spread all over Arlington but you can walk in to any of them and find the same products at the same (and fair) price. If they don’t have something, they’ll order it for you.

    They’re quite well run, I haven’t had a problem with them

    • TGEoA

      Fair prices?

      VA prices are a ripoff compared to MD and DC.

      • Courthouse Resident

        Feel free to head over to DC or MD and pick up your alcohol then.

        • TGEoA

          Why should I have too? I would prefer to have a well stocked, well run and competativly priced liquor store nearby.

          ABC selection, pricing and and especially staffing SUCKS.

        • Jenny

          I do buy my liquor in MD and DC. Store there have a much better selection, better prices, and staff that know the product and have basic customer service skills.

          I’d love to not cross state lines for a bottle of vodka, but the hassle and markup rarely make it worth buying in VA.

  • stevis

    I’d love to see the state out of the liquor business; it’s silly and anti-consumer. But given the lost revenue stream, it’s clear they’re not asking for a sufficiently high price for it. I’m sure the sale intended to be a typical corrupt boondoggle benefiting friends of those currently in power.

    • Kevin

      Would you mind elaborating on how the current system is anti-consumer?

      • stevis

        Monopolies are anti-consumer. I have to spell that out?

        • Kevin

          Please do, specifically as it relates to the ABC stores, not monopolies in general.

          • CW

            Agreed. I actually think that the ABC stores are incredibly well-run and I enjoy the standardization, with no price gouging even in the most desirable parts of town where one could easily take advantage of the demographic.

            Ever been to New Hampshire?

          • stevis

            Look: Standard Oil it isn’t, I get that. I don’t find it especially galling or gouging, and I’m not anxious to see the state fail to get a fair price relative to the revenue stream–I’d rather live with the current system than piss away a taxpayer asset. (I’m with you, PikeHoo, that this feels like a boondoggle.)

            But you said it yourself–the government store will order something for you if they don’t have it. If competition was allowed, said competition might very well stock your item in advance, in order to attract your business. Competition might open stores in more convenient locations where even more business could be done (and taxed–again, the transition has to be run properly, or it’s better not to do it at all.)

            It’s not as if Virginia is re-enacting the Soviet economy here, but c’mon–looking at other states will illustrate that the state-run system can’t be efficiently serving the market.

      • anon

        If you’ve ever lived in a state w/o state run liquor stores you’d know why its anti-consumer. Its a lot more convenient to be able to purchase liquor at the same outlets you purchase wine and beer. The stores have less freedom to stock certain things, and more specialty liquors aren’t stocked. Ordering something isn’t convenient, going in and having it on the shelf is. I have heard local restaurants complain about the hoops they have to jump through just to get certain, obscure liquors they want.

        I have also heard multiple craft breweries representatives say that it is harder to distribute in VA than other surrounding states, but that is another issue.

        • CW

          Umm, I spent the last 5 years in New York state, where there are no state-run stores, and you can only buy beer in grocery stores. You have to go to a private “liquor” store just to buy a bottle of red wine to have with dinner.

          Your point?

          • anon

            My understanding of the current proposal is that current store operators (i.e. grocery stores) would be able to buy licenses. Whether or not they could be stocked in the store, or at a separate counter attached to the store (some OH grocery stores do this) I do not know.

        • CW

          And what does restaurant ordering and craft brewery distribution have to do with the ABC stores? Those are issues with regulation and law, not with the point-of-sale operation.

          • anon

            I said it was another issue, please read more carefully. It is however related, another way that VA alcohol laws are overly strict/anti-consumer.

          • charlie

            The state controls ALL booze
            Restaurants have to buy their hard liquor from the state. The state distribution to restaurant is for sale and includes huge new taxes.

          • CW

            Yes, you said it was another issue. I see that. Which is why I am asking as to why you are invoking this unrelated, and therefore irrelevant, as part of your argument.

      • PikeHoo

        The Commonwealth’s “monopoly” is profitable and our citizens do not have trouble buying their liquor of choice even if it is a couple bucks more than DC. McDonnell wants to get rid of a profitable current and perpetual cash flow for a one time sale / giveaway to private industry. Talk about scratching some backs. These are the same types of people saying that the government shouldn’t be running schools, owning and maintaining roads, social welfare programs, etc. They are living in la la land.

        Personally, I don’t really want a liquor store on every other corner of Columbia Pike.

        • Burger

          When exactly did the government become a business such that it should be worried about the profit it generates. Therein lies the fallacy of your argument. The government does need to generate revenue for the core services it provides but under your argument it should be a “profit” such that it should be returned to its shareholders I.e. The people.

        • Bringmetheyuppies

          Well how about ONE liquor store on the pike! I have to get in my car and go miles in any direction to get a bottle of liquor.Ridiculous. If ABC won’t put even one store here sell it!

      • Chris

        It is anti-consumer in that I have few places to go to buy liquor, and that I can’t buy liquor at the same store where I buy beer and wine and groceries. I rarely purchase liquor, but if the experiences of those in this conversation are legit, it also seems that their selection is adequate but not as wide as it might be if it were in private hands.

        Clearly the government should be out of the retail business. But, equally clear, the government should slap a higher price tag on the sale of the ABC stores and institute good regulation that would not allow “a liquor store on every other corner of Columbia Pike” (PikeHoo’s concern).

        An increase in the number of outlets selling liquor is not necessarily a problem. With some common sense regulation this can be done well. And with a higher price tag – both on the sale of the stores and the annual licensing fees – the revenue from the ABC Stores can be replaced.

        • CW

          Several people are making the logical leap that the sale of the ABC stores and VA getting out of the liquor SALES business would somehow also change the regulations to allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores. I doubt that VA would make a jump from state-controlled sales to open sales of liquor in grocery establishments. This is a big policy leap.

          The sale of hard liquor in grocery stores is the exception, not the rule.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alcohol_laws_of_the_United_States_by_state

          • anon

            You are ignoring the loophole around that rule. That list states OH cannot sell liquor >40 proof in grocery stores. But what ends up happening is some grocery stores have a separate area (akin to grocery stores with banks or starbucks) within the store that sells high proof liquor. Again I don’t know if VA will do this, but the chart is misleading for at least 1 state.

          • NorthAdams

            big business is LINING UP in Richmond to get these licenses.
            Think COSTCO, WALMART — they WANT the money. Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, small retailers by a “statewide” standard can’t compete for these licenses to sell booze. SOOOO Arlington will probably LOOSE the number of places you can buy booze. If this goes thru the ONLY places you can buy booze in Arlington will probably be Costco, BJ’s and that is it. Less choice actually for us.
            There won’t be enough licenses to go around. such that GIant and Safeway (which also have small presences) will get any of them.

          • Lou

            According to Zimmerman’s cherry-picked report, there would be over three times as many liquor outlets in Arlington if the plan goes through.

          • NorthAdams

            Zimmie might think he is in control, but he isn’t. the state will issue the licenses. to the highest bidder. and the highest bidder is NOT going ot be a mom and pop arlingotn business.

        • PikeHoo

          Chris, that is the most logical argument from the side I disagree with so far.

          However, I can’t stomach Virginia giving up a profitable current and perpetual income stream. Without any kind of annual licensing or top-line revenue cut as you mention, McDonnell is simply putting dollars in the pockets of the private sector. When it comes to problems in regulating the location and frequency of stores, we don’t have to look to far across the river (DC) to see how things can go poorly. A neighborhood may not have a grocery store, but they’ll certainly have a corner liquor store. Yuck.

  • Jack

    State-run operations are monopolistic and anti-competitive. Those who support the current system are just buying into classical liberalism (which even the communist Chinese have largely abandoned) that the only good businesses are a government owned and operated businesses.

    • ABC

      No one is saying that the only good businesses are government businesses. But, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it! The ABC stores are quite affordable (better prices than I’ve seen in many states with private alcohol sales). And the fact of the matter is that the state needs to make money somehow. If not selling alcohol, then higher income or sales taxes. I, for one, am happy that they profit selling alcohol at a reasonable price!

      • Burger

        You need to go into other states and recompare prices because you are flat out wrong. Second, it is not working because I can’t go into an ABC store and get the variety of selection I can get once I cross the river in DC. I should have to special order Pisco and in a competitive private marketplace I wouldn’t. Third, annual revenue is probably being projected on the low end because their will be more sales within the state as people that normally buy their hard alcohol in DC on Fridays as they head home from work or when traveling into DC will make that purchase in Virginia.

    • BoredHouseWife

      But let us trust those merchants. They have our best interest at heart.

      How will we make up the lost yearly revenue?

    • JD32

      Classic liberalism states that the only good businesses are state run businesses? That’s news to me. Classic liberalism is most closely aligned to the modern political philosophy of libertarians. Unless, of course, you were using the term “classic” to indicate “typical,” in which case you’re also way off base. I can’t think of a single person – be they politician, friend, acquaintance, or any other public figure – who believes this to be the case. Please don’t paint with such a broad and horribly inaccurate brush.

      Where did you take your political philosophy classes? Glenn Beck University and Rush Limbaugh State? Stop parroting talking points and think for yourself.

  • Let’s Be Free

    Yep, keep up the current system and I’ll continue to buy in DC.

    By the way Ms. Hynes, for it to be easier for teens to buy liquor in Arlington grocery stores the County would actually need to have grocery stores, which is altogether another story.

    • Frenchy B

      What does Harris Teeter sell, furniture?

      • Let’s Be Free

        Harris Teeter sells wine, beer, drugs and groceries for prices that average 25 to 50 percent higher than what I pay at stores for ordinary people in Fairfax County and Alexandria, where I run into many of my Arlington neighbors.

        • CW

          Yes, that is why God created Costco.

          • Let’s Be Free

            Oh yes, CostCo the store that Chris Zimmerman has zoned and planned out of existence. He’s go a road mapped right through the middle of the store. Good thing a new Costco is opening in Falls Church.

          • Let’s Be Free

            Strike that, it is a BJ’s that is opening out on Wilson Blvd.

          • cj

            LetsBeFree: Your anti-Zimmerman reflex is way off on this one. The long-term plan for the Costco superblock has many authors other than Chris. More important, the provisions for redesign of the Costco part of the site go into effect only when and if Costco leaves. It was clear from the start of discussions that the store and its parking will be accommodated as long as they stay.

          • Let’s Be Free

            Sorry, cj, that is a phony defense. The only way the CostCo site gets to upgrade or improve (as all properties must sooner or later as they depreciate and decay) is if it is re-built consistent with the plan — the plan adopted puts a road right through the middle of CostCo. There is no Costgo with a road through it. And now that Zimmerman is up for re-election, his intiatives get sourced back to Mary Hynes and Walt Tejada and the REITs. Their agressive leader had no role. Good shell game. CostGo is history.

        • South Arlington

          25-50 percent price differences? What an embarassing and incendiary exaggeration. I’ve seen very little difference in price between Harris Teeter and the 7 Corners Safeway, VA Square Giant, the Glebe Road Giant in Alexandria and the Bailey’s Crossroads Giant. The only real price difference I see is on meat and fish, which seems to be of much better quality at Harris Teeter justifying the price difference.

          But I guess the packed Pentagon City Harris Teeter is full of “unordinary people”. What an elitist and snooty remark by you.

          • Let’s Be Free

            Just for starters, we drink about a gallon of milk at day in our household and buy it for between $2.49 and $2.99 a gallon, compared to $3.59 a gallon at Harris Teeter. The $300 or so a year difference may be meaningless to you, but it means a lot to my family. I just bought Thomas bagels for $2.79 at Safeway, they are running $4.19 at Harris Teeter. Cereal is much more expensive, and meats, poultry and beverages all cost dramatically more at Harris Teeter than at other stores. Something as basic as spaghetti noodles sells for $1.50 at Harris Teeter and I buy noodles for 99 cents or less elsewhere. The only department where HT fares well against the competition is produce – and one needs to be careful there as well.

            And the next time you are at Pentagon City look at all the Beemers, Benzes and Lexuses in the lot.

          • Texas Wahoo

            It has been my experience that almost everything is cheaper at Giant than at Harris Teeter. Safeway is somewhere in the middle, with many items being closer to GIant and many closer to Teeter.

          • Let’s Be Free

            And Safeway has the best specials of the bunch. When I am in Safeway almost everything I buy except for staples like milk, is on Savings Club special. They’ve just re-opened to full-service, completely rebuilt Safeway at Seven Corners, I see. I’ll drive out there soon. And they are rebuilding as well the Safeway on Lee Highway in Falls Church.

          • South Arlington

            Please stop exaggerating. I bought Thomas bagels this week for $2.99. They are fairly regularly 2 for 1 with the VIC card. I bought spaghetti noodles for $1.19, although those too are regularly on VIC special. My gallon of milk was $2.99 as well.

            Your attempts at creating a classist controversy between “ordinary people” and “nonordinary” shoppers is ridiculous and counterproductive. Your characterization of the parking lot as being full of BMWs and Mercedes (while inaccurate) is another example of your classist views, harkening back to the proleteriat fighting the bourgeousie during the Leninist Russian Revolution.

          • CW

            Yeah, seriously, you can’t afford a BMW if you’re blowing all your money on overpriced bagels.

            Frankly I think the majority of supermarkets in the entire area including seven corners, are quite expensive. Wegmans Fairfax has them all beat; their prices are exactly the same, in my experience, as they are in their upstate NY stores.

          • Let’s Be Free

            Tsarist rule enforced by the enclavists ignorant of the turmoil stirring among the commoners beyond the palace gates. Nice parallel. Never would have thought of it myself. We will be seeing evidence of that next Tuesday. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

          • anon

            Giant – less selection (don’t carry random things like non-instant quaker oats grits, Dukes mayonaise), produce not as good, low regular prices on staple items (milk, eggs); sale prices not as good/not things I buy

            Teeter – higher regular price items, but more brands; more sale items I regularly eat and big discounts on sale; better produce selection

          • a’town

            Yeah I will give it to the anarchist “lets be free” and agree that Harris Teeter is expensive. Thats why I drive to Trader Joes in Bailys. Either that or the VA Square Giant. But Teeter is not THAT much more expensive. For a weekly grocery trip, I probably save $20 by going to Traders and $15 going to Giant versus Teeter.

          • PikeHoo

            Let’s Be Free, shouldn’t people “be free” to buy whatever kind of car they want or can afford? Shouldn’t you “be free” to NOT shop at a rip-off grocery store that enjoys a 20 cent markup on your favorite brand of bagels? You are for freedom, right? Nobody’s twisting your arm to shop at these places. Go out and enjoy the fruits of the free market where supply always equals demand.

          • Let’s Be Free

            PikeHoo, I indeed do as you suggest, as should be abundantly clear from my posts. I jump in my POV taking my retail and sales tax dollars and drive past all the vacant balkanized Arlington storefronts to Falls Church or Alexandria, and even sometimes Mclean. Yep, Arlington County, where everthing is Green, liveable and walkable, why they sure know what they are doing there.

          • PikeHoo

            LBF, I think driving all over Northern VA to save 60 cents on a gallon of milk and 20 cents on a bag of bagels is unproductive. Have you factored in the cost of your fuel or even your time stuck in traffic?

          • Let’s Be Free

            For sure I consider time and travel expense. As mentioned the places I typically shop are in Alexandria, Falls Church and Mclean (in some cases within sight of the Arlington County line). I also shop on multiple purpose trips and/or shop for groceries most Sunday mornings when there is no traffic or waiting in line, and the reduced for quick sale items have been restocked overnight. And since I shop for a growing family its hardly just a gallon or two of milk and a bagel purchased; it’s seldom that I leave a store without a full shopping cart or more.

      • Courthouse Resident

        Ya know – it’s funny but Harris Teeter does sell some furniture! I’m always laughing when I head upstairs and find an outdoor patio set on sale.

        • Frenchy B

          Yeah, now that you mention it, they do have some odd non-grocery items. I was just trying to counter the argument that no one was opening new grocery stores in Arlington.

          • a’town

            There is a new Trader Joes opening in Clarendon and a Giant is being re-done off the Pike I think

    • Baby Boomer

      Teens get their beer/cigarettes via the vagrants hanging around the convenience stores. They just give them a couple of dollars as a tip to buy for them.

  • cocktail girl

    I’m a little perplexed by all the praise for the ABC stores. The ones I’ve been in have a terrible selection, and the prices are ridiculously high. The staff know little about liquor, and when I’ve asked for something they don’t have, I’ve never been given the option to order it.

    I wouldn’t mind if Virginia stayed in the liquor business; I just wish they were better at it.

    (And yes, if the ABC stores are my only option, I’ll continue to buy in Montgomery County where the prices are lower and the selection is better.)

  • TAllen

    I don’t really care if VA is in the liquor business or not, but whatever plan they come up with must generate on an ongoing basis at least as much revenue to the general fund as the current arrangement does. That’s the problem right now — the governor’s plan results in an average annual shortfall of $41 million or so, which makes it a non-starter. As to the effect of having a state-run monopoly on liquor sales on liquor prices, a local TV station did a story on that several weeks ago and found a mixed bag. They couldn’t conclude that prices were generally higher in VA as opposed to MD or DC.

  • GK

    My $.02 worth: selling off the ABC stores and going to private sales means a loss of steady income for VA, which is bad. Its status quo now, why change that? The goal should be to make the stores better for the consumers, like increasing variety, hours, etc. On the impact on citizenry point… everyone makes a choice to put the glass to their lips. The govt. should not be here to be our parents. If the minority population has a high rate of alcoholism, then get to the root of that problem and help them. Teens? They got it when I was a kid, they get it now. Vagrants? Get officers to lock them up. Limiting the number of places you can purchase alcohol is going to have very little impact at the level we are talking about. Education, policing, and personal responsibility are what is needed here. Not the county board’s heavy handed antics.

  • PurpleFlipFlops

    Liquor stores are another tax. Get rid of them. Whatever revenue lost is money from taxpayers.

  • Zoning Victim

    I’m definitely not a liberal and think that selling the liquor stores is a bad idea. How can a conservative come to this conclusion one may ask; because there will be no way to cover the budget shortfall it will create other than to raise taxes. So pick your poison, as they say: swallow the fact that the state will not let private companies take over the liquor business for a song and a dance or choke on new taxes to cover the budget shortfall this will create. There is no way you will ever be able to tax liquor enough to make the same amount of money Virginia is making on liquor now and still leave the governor’s buddies room to make a profit.

    The fact that we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot (in the long run) for roads aggravates me more than any other aspect of this plan. All new and bigger roads do is make rich landowners richer, entice people to live out further at the expense of everyone, harm the environment and perpetuate the stupid notion that millions of people need to drive into the same place to go to work. What we should be doing is offering tax breaks to companies who do the right thing and let their workers who do not really need to be at the office work from home. We should be figuring out ways to quell the need for people to drive their cars, not making commuting long distances in fuel burning vehicles by individuals easier at a huge expense to all taxpayers. Obviously, we will always need roads and there are certain jobs where people just have to be onsite, but the easy solution to our traffic problems, oil problems and environmental problems is less drivers, not more roads.

  • BoredHouseWife

    It is guaranteed yearly revenue.
    A private corporation will be able to manipulate details “legally” so that they pay pittance in taxes. It is stupid to change the system. The citizens of Va will lose.

    • Burger

      How does one plan around a sales tax on the sale of liquor. It isn’t like income that you can plan around but based off of sales.

  • Lou

    JFC, their hand-wringing over this is annoying. If you take their logic to the extreme, they would probably prefer to ban all retail liquor sales in the county. That way it would not impact the disproportionately alcoholic minorities and free up a lot police and health service workers.

    I wonder sometimes if they actually listen to what they are saying.

  • Budget Chicken Hawk

    As to the potential revenue shortfall:

    The state budget has outpaced inflation and population growth by 28 percent in the last ten years. In the last two years alone, the budget has grown by $3,000,000,000. To put a fine point on it: our choice is not between a state-operated alcohol franchise and higher taxes.

    Aside from revenue, what compelling state interest justifies the monopolization of retail liquor sales?

    • Zoning Victim

      None, but please don’t try to sit here and tell me you really think this state is prepared to cut $3 billion from its budget; you just gave us 10 years of history showing the unlikelihood of that happening. So in the real world, our choices are to stay in the liquor business or raise taxes.

    • Compelling Reasons

      Health, Safety, and Morals. Liquor hits on all three.

      • Zoning Victim

        I reject the notion that privatizing liquor sales will lead to more drinking. It is not hard to get, now, and I really cannot see someone not getting a bottle of liquor they want because the grocery store does not carry it and they will have to drive across the street or walk down a few doors in the strip mall to get it.

        If you really believe alcohol does adversely affect safety, health (lots of proof to the contrary on this one) and morals (in my Bible, Jesus drank wine), then you should be dead set against your government selling it to people.

        • PikeHoo

          Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you want to live next to a liquor store? If not, why not?

          • Texas Wahoo

            I don’t want to live next to a liquor store for the same reason I don’t want to live next to a 7-11, gas station, CVS, clock store, McDonalds, etc. I’m not sure how I would feel about the state taking over burger sales…

          • Zoning Victim

            LOL, no, but then again, I don’t want to live right next to any business, which is why I live in a neighborhood. Are you really trying to make the leap that privatizing liquor stores means that people are going to start converting their neighborhood houses into liquor stores? That’s the only way anyone is going to endup living right next to a liquor store unless they buy a condo over top of one.

  • JamesE

    I don’t know what to think. I would love to get a bottle of Jack Daniels from the Ballston 7-11 but then I think the amount of homeless outside of it would go up exponentially.

    • anon

      haha, they practically need a cop there permanently right now to remove the more aggressive panhandlers.

      • JamesE

        It is getting pretty and I am a terrible person because all I can think about is how it is negatively affecting my property value.

        • JamesE

          *pretty bad

    • Lou

      Why don’t you just tell them there’s a real liquor store three blocks away? Wouldn’t that make them leave?

  • Kathy F

    I just wish the ABC liquor store was open on Sunday.

  • Fidel

    Cuba has state run businesses. Virginia has state run businesses. What’s the difference? The excuse of “this is how we have always done it” lacks merit. The State should not be in the business of running liquor stores and controlling liquor distribution. Let the free enterprise work it out. Virginia should not create a private monopoly but instead should get out the liquor business completely.

    • PikeHoo

      The United States has a president. North Korea has a president. What’s the difference?

      • Real World Economics

        The President of the United States is elected through “free” elections that are held every 4 years. The “president” of North Korea is a dictator that has been in power for how many years now with what elections to replace him? And just a couple weeks ago, there was a news piece about how his son had made an appearance with him at a state function and the son was referred to as “the heir apparent”. So, BIG DIFFERENCE.

        • Frenchy B

          Pretty sure PikeHoo was being sarcastic with his/her North Korea comparison…

  • KateKirk

    VA ABC would make more money off me if they carried rye whisky, even something like Rittenhouse. If I didn’t have the option to drive across the river for better prices and selection, I would be screaming in favor of privatization, but as it is, I hope the state will make the best financial decision. (Kids and bums are always gonna drink and you just deal with that part.)

  • Runaway train

    The State of VA should not be in the business of directly selling liquor. Turn it back to a private business and create an opportunity for small business owners. This is not a republican viewpoint, I am a democrat.
    I moved to Arlington from Baltimore 4 years ago and appreciated having private liquor stores for the selection, ability to directly patronage a local business, more appealing stores, better hours, and more locations. When I go to Maryland, I usually purchase my liquor their and bring it back to VA to avoid going to ABC stores. I can continue to spend my money in MD and allow them to collect the taxes. VA could make a profit from the sales of current liquor stores and addition of new stores.
    This is another reason why I will be voting for Mark Kelly and not Zimmerman.

  • Andrew

    The saddest part of this report is the group thinking among the board members. No one has the guts to politely disagree and offer a different point of view — as some of the commenters here have done so well.

    This is why the county is in such trouble. One mind, one heart, one people lead to one policy, good or bad, no matter what.

    If someone — anyone — on the board could just say, “Hey, wait a minute…” and offer a different opinion. Perhaps policies could change in the county.

    • Lou

      Hey, they are looking for ways to cut duplication of county services to help balance the budget. If you took away two board members, would anything really change?

  • Andrew

    Oh, yeah, one more point: When someone like Chris Zimmerman says that $450 million is “nothing” they have been in government way too long. Where I stand, that’s a lot of money. Maybe not enough to fund certian projects, but it’s far from “nothing.”

    • Zoning Victim

      Okay, I’m not really happy with anyone on the County Board, but in all fairness to Zimmerman, in 2008 Virginia spent $41 billion from the federal highway trust fund. So while $450 million sounds huge it is still only 1.09% of the amount of money Virginia already spends in federal highway money and will not amount to a hill of beans when it comes to transportation improvements. McDonnell even said so himself when talking about the $1.5 billion in funds they found sitting around doing nothing during their audit of VDOT:

      “Critics suggest this newly discovered mountain of money also means Virginia won’t have to privatize the state’s liquor monopoly. McDonnell has pledged to sell the state’s ABC stores to raise money for transportation.
      “I don’t agree with that at all. Our problems are far bigger than a one-time $1.5 billion infrastructure improvement,” McDonnell said.”

      http://www.nbc12.com/Global/story.asp?S=13204410

  • RestonRunner86

    I was just curious as to what Governor McDonnell’s plan IS to replace the $41,000,000 in lost annual revenues since he campaigned upon a platform of refusing to increase taxes? Does this mean he’ll be cutting essential services?

    • Burger

      What is the over annual budget for VA. This argument that 41 million is a ot of money is not supported by the fact iit is less than 1/2 percent of the overall budget that cam easily replaced via other means including cutting non-essential services like the Artscape which I know is a county funded project but I’m sure virginia funds other similar stupid crap that isn’t worthy of our tax dollars.

      Remember taxes are Wally your money

      • RestonRunner86

        Liquor > The Arts? (Scratches head).

  • a’town

    Lets hope its not halt work on the Metro extension in fear of cost overruns like the genius Gov of New Jersey. Only costing his state $350MM in refunds to the US govt and 6,000 jobs. But dont worry, he wont raise taxes, so its all good!

  • CJR

    I’m not a big government guy, so I’m at odds with most of Northern VA. Despite how well the state may run the ABC stores, the stores will be cheaper and more efficient if private enterprise is allowed to enter this business to compete. That’s not debatable – what is debatable is the loss of the stream of income to the state.

    • Zoning Victim

      Anything is debatable. Here, watch:

      To make up the reveune, the state will have to levy a big tax on the liquor sales to make up for it. If they’re not going to raise taxes, as they’ve said in the past, the tax will have to be huge; in fact, it will have to bridge the gap between what the state pays wholesale and what it profits. This will cut out the entire profit margin the store owners are looking to make, forcing them to raise their prices above where they are today. It’s either that, a budget shortfall or a broken campaign promise.

      There is no free lunch here, so let’s see an actual plan that goes beyond selling these stores off and pretending that it won’t either cost the state a lot of money or force them to tax something else starting the very next year. I’m not buying that so many more people will start drinking so much more liquor that a relatively small tax on the liquor store’s profits will offset the whole thing. One would have to be pretty clueless to buy that line.

  • Westover

    The ABC Stores are not badly priced at all. DC shops compete well with their sales, but not all the shops over the Potomac are that well stocked or that much cheaper. Generally I am against having the government in a profit making business, but I think that alcohol sales are better controlled this way, and eliminating them will make it harder to control Pot when the inevitable lift of that Prohibition eventually comes here.

  • Ken Green

    I am simply amazed by the people who insist that the state has the right to give itself a monopoly market in order to raise revenues. If the idea is that liquor is special because it can be abused and cause social harm, well, so can gasoline, food, salt, dishwashing detergent, etc.

    The same logic would suggest that the state just confiscate all the gas stations, restaurants, markets, and everything else. That way, the government could pick the selections, better control the choices of the public, eliminate “superfluous” outlets, and they could create vastly more government jobs and have tons more revenue!

    There’s a name for this mindset: it’s called communist.

    • Westover

      Ken, it is the history of the product that gave the state the original “right” to the monopoly. It was a compromise for lifting prohibition. Communism has nothing to do with it, and does nothing for the argument to eliminate the stores by bringing it into the conversation.

  • Real World Economics

    A lot of the comment’s refer to the “amount of revenue” the state will lose if they sell off the ABC Stores. But how much will the state actually be giving up? That’s a key question that needs to be answered. If you review the ABC’s Annual Report for 2009 (http://www.abc.virginia.gov/admin/annual/annual.htm), it shows a difference between revenue and cost for alcohol sales of $232.7M. I presume that the “cost of alcohol sales” is only product, i.e. that it does not include the cost of real estate or employee salaries and benefits. The total transfer to the General Fund was $111.8M, less than 1/2 the “profit” from alcohol sales.

    About $20M of the revenue stream is from taxes, permits, grants, and other fees. Presumably, these would still be collected. Even after the initial sale of the stores, the state would probably still charge an annual license fee which would make up for some of the lost revenue. They could also bump up the tax on liquor sales.

    So again, the question is “How much would the state actualy be giving up?”

    As for the argument of people losing their jobs, well the private liquor stores are still going to need people to work there. The difference being that since it’s a private enterprise, the employees will actually have to perform or risk loosing their job as oppposed to being a government employee where it’s virtually impossible to get fired.

    • Zoning Victim

      Thanks for the link. The profit from the ABC stores is $152,946,542. The approximate $41.5 million in general and administrative expenses that bring it down to $111+ million will probably remain after they sell the stores because you’ll still have to issue licenses and enforce the rules. I admit it is not much money in the grand scheme of things; however, we already have a projected budget shortfall of $1.35 billion. So, where is the money supposed to come from?

      To replace the $152,946,542, we will have to figure out another way to get $52.74 from each of the 2.9 million households in Virginia. While here in Northern Virginia that doesn’t sound like a lot, most of Virginia is still rural and those people are struggling to get by.

      Keeping in mind there is already a 20% tax on liquor, which is not included in the profit from the stores, and you want the new store owners to be able to make money and be able compete with DC and Maryland on price, how do you get that money without raising taxes as promised?

      I’m not defending the state’s decision back in 1934 to go into the liquor business. I’m simply stating that the money has to come from somewhere, so what are you going to tax and/or what are you going to cut and how do you get that passed? Purposely creating a shortfall with no plan to cover it is irresponsible and I’ll continue to be against that plan until it updated to where makes sense and covers whatever shortfall it creates. Right now the plan is: sell all of the stores, put all of that money into roads and cross your fingers and hope that everyone starts drinking a heck of a lot more alcohol than they are now.

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