Two-hundred-sixty-nine stores in the state. Two-hundred-sixty-nine stores. Take one down. Sell it to town. Two-hundred-sixty-eight stores in the state.
One ABC store at a time, Delegate Allen Louderback wants to turn over the sale of liquor to private franchises.
Gary Frink, Legislative Aide to Delegate Louderback, says, "The question is: Should the Commonwealth of Virginia be in the retail business generally and the business of retailing alcohol specifically. The answer is clearly no."
Louderback has proposed privatization before, but this year, his bill has a twist. He's suggesting a pilot program that would sell the twenty least profitable ABC stores.
Profits from the sale would go into a K-12 education trust fund. Many consumers like the idea for several reasons.
Kathleen Fedek, ABC Customer, says, "I think it would be more convenient."
Steve Schellhorn, another ABC Customer, says, "It would probably mean more competition, possible price lowering, better service."
But others fear the worst.
Chris Mania, a JMU Student, says, "I've seen from living in California and some other places that that's all you see is liquor store this and liquor store that. I think sometimes it can adversely affect the community."
A study done by ABC says privatization increases the number of liquor stores in town and brings in less revenue for the state. It also says there's a potential for an increase in crime and a bigger burden on local law enforcement.
The agency says state control helped it generate $189 million from profits and taxes last year for Virginia. It says 2002 was the most profitable year in ABC's history. About $160 million of that was slated for Virginia's General Fund and the other $28 million was returned to localities.
Delegate Louderback hopes to sell all 269 ABC stores, but he's starting small. He says he'll reintroduce the bill next year if it doesn't pass this session.