From Pine View Farm

Let the Spirits Free 0

I can get behind this:

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration is exploring new ways to get Virginia at least partially out of the liquor business.

Virginia should get completely out of the liquor business, except for licensing and regulation. Some things are best suited for private enterprise; some things only the government can do.

Regulating pollution is a government thing.

Retail sales is a private enterprise thing.

I have lived in Northern Virginia, where I patronized privately-owned liquor stores in Washington, D. C., because there was price competition, though I did buy wine at my local Virginia Safeway, where there was also price competition.

I have lived in Delaware and worked in New Jersey, both of which have private liquor stores and price competition.

I have also lived in Pennsylvania, whose alcohol sales regulations are absolutely and completely insane. You buy spirits and wine at state stores, except that wineries can operate their own stores, but sell only their own vintages. You buy beer at beer distributors, but only in case lots. If you want a six pack, you can buy one at certain bars, but you pay bar prices–in other words, a six pack can cost anything from $3.00 to $ 6.00 a container, or $18.00 to $36.00. Or more. (Needless to say, the largest lobby against reforming Pennsylvania liquor laws is the beer distributors association, closely followed by the Pa. Liquor Control Board.) You can buy a Coca-Cola at the local Safeway.

I have visited Indiana and other states where, apparently, almost anyone can sell spirits. I remember my surprise on entering a pharmacy in Beech Grove, Indiana, where my employer at the time had a major facility, and seeing a wall of spirits on display.

Virginia’s ABC system is a holdover from Prohibition. It was designed upon repeal to protect the citizenry from Demon Rum by attaching a stigma to buying it. It was likely designed by a legislature that was half shot on moonshine at the time, but that’s a different story.

I remember, when I was a young ‘un, looking into the ABC store next to the barbershop where my father tormented me with my biweekly haircut. The clerks wore uniforms. You could not browse the shelves; the stock was all behind the counter. The idea was to keep you away from Demon Rum or, at least, to make purchasing it an unpleasant and intimidating experience. (No one talked publicly of the still in the woods behind the county seat.)

Heck, I can remember when you couldn’t order scotch-rocks-water-on-the-side in a Virgina restaurant. Liquor by the drink was a big deal when it came along 40 years ago.


I must say that, upon my return to Virginia, I was mildly surprised that ABC stores are now quite pleasant, with open shelves and clerks dressed in civies. The staff at my local ABC store is friendly, pleasant, and competent.


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