People’s Liquor Store

One thing Gov. Bob McDonnell campaigned on was privatizing the Virginia ABC monopoly. This can’t happen soon enough. It is beyond reason in the 21st century that the state government should be the front-line purveyor of spirits.

Regulate the sale, license the stores that sell spirits. Tax if absolutely necessary. But staff and run the stores directly? This is a hangover (pardon the expression) of a time when do-gooders believed that mere citizens were too child-like to control their urges and had to be controlled by Big Brother.

My specific complaints of the Virginia ABC stores, at least in my area of Northern Virginia, are two: prices that are not competitive, and staff who, though unfailingly polite, don’t have English as their first language and don’t seem to know much about what they sell.

As for pricing, just one example: I was in Montgomery County, Maryland, and noticed that virtually all prices (not sale items) are much lower. Example? Bulleit Bourbon (750ml) is $25.95 in Virginia, only $18.55 in Montgomery County.

Why should this be? How can a Maryland county offer better prices than our state? I doubt that right-thinking members of the MoCo County Council are, somehow, trying to subsidize John Barleycorn in their jurisdiction.

The most likely explanation? Virginia’s ABC stores are grossly incompetent in their bargaining and purchasing. Best solution? Privatize; let the market decide how much to charge for a given item. Let grocery and other stores sell liquor, as they now sell beer and wine.

Treat citizens as though we are citizens, and not unruly children. Age-verify, just as is now done for beer and wine and cigarette sales. Worried about alcoholism and drunk driving? Enforce laws on the books, no leniency. And make public examples of jail time handed down for drunk driving that results in death or injury. In short, hold people fully accountable for their behavior.

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