I see that Del. Allen Louderback (R-Luray) has gotten a bill out of subcommittee to privatize the state liquor stores — good for him. Virginia is one of a handful of states in the union that only allow liquor to be sold in state-owned stores. It’s a ridiculous line of business for the state to be in, and it’s only a matter of time until a court finds it to be an illegal restraint on commerce. The state should sell off the stores while they’re still valuable; if the courts order it, they’ll go for fire-sale prices. It would be a quick injection of capital into the state, as the 300-some locations are sold off, and then the state could get out of the firewater business entirely. Now, to be fair, Louderback’s bill only permits the ABC board to grant private franchises — it wouldn’t actually sell off the existing stores. (Previous bills attempting a full sell-off haven’t even made it out of committee.) Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and would certainly set the stage for a sell-off.
I’m with Del. Chris Saxman (R-Staunton), who told the Augusta Free Press:
The state shouldn’t be in the retail business. It’s as simple as that. [...] The state should provide the regulatory environment and enforce the laws and regulations related to liquor sales. But the state should not be involved in the operations of retail stores, period.
Here’s hoping HB 1498 goes places.