For McDonnell, liquor store reform easy as ABC

Nan Turner
Staff Writer

Virginians could see a change in the way they buy liquor if Governor Bob McDonnell acts on his plan to privatize the selling of alcoholic beverages. Last month, McDonnell announced that he would like to take the responsibility of selling liquor away from the state and make it the dealing of private businesses and distributors. This would allow larger retailers such as Kroger and Walmart the chance to carry liquor and distilled spirits which previously have not. Small, privately owned liquor stores would also be allowed to open.
While the change in ownership of the stores and distribution of the product will likely not affect consumers, it will require changes for bars, restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol from a distributor. Currently, bars and restaurants have to sign up to buy liquor from the sprawling ABC warehouse located on Hermitage Road. Every single bottle of liquor sold in Virginia must first pass through the warehouse.
Ron Rogers, Strange Matter bartender and manager, said he would like to see the shift from state-run liquor sales to the private sector.
“I would prefer to deal with an individual business as opposed to a government employee,” said Rogers.
Despite the fact that Rogers is located closer to other ABC stores, he has to travel to the warehouse weekly to pick up his order, and the hours set by the state are not always convenient.
“With the government, you’re just another thing on their to-do list, and they can get to you or they can’t,” he said. “I think [privatization] will hurry things along.”
However, others near campus do not see the need for an immediate change. Charles Zimmerman, one of the owners of Mojo’s Philadeli, thinks the state has done a satisfactory job regulating liquor and should not be in any rush to privatize.
“I believe that the state should probably hang on to that monopoly,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think it’s such a bad deal for them to have it. They probably make enough revenue from doing that to make it worth their while.”
Zimmerman has not encountered any problems regarding pick-up times or inaccessibility when it comes to securing his liquor from the warehouse. He said although things may be slightly different for restaurant owners in the event of privatization, customers should not anticipate a change.
Both Zimmerman and Rogers said that they were excited by the possibility of free delivery from wholesale retailers if privatization does goes through.
One of the possible advantages of privatization for bar and restaurant owners would be wholesale retailers discounting purchases of large quantities of liquor. This prospect is something Baja Bean Co. owner, Jeff Allumes, would like to see come to fruition.
“You could look at it in a positive way where if I buy 120 bottles of tequila from somewhere like Sam’s Club then I get a quantity discount,” said Allumes.
“We pay the same thing everyone else pays per bottle right now. There should be some sort of quantity discounts for restaurateurs or anybody for that matter. Virginia has high liquor prices comparatively to other states.”
The Governor just finished a tour of the state where he held eight town hall meetings at various stops. According to McDonnell’s website, the meetings, billed “Virginia Speaks: A Conversation about Jobs, Government Reform and Our Future,” were a forum for the discussion of privatization of ABC stores, decreasing the size of government and the creation of new jobs.

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