If Liquor Privatization Is Not Handled Right, It Might Benefit Consumers

The Washington Post reports that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to privatize liquor retailing in the Old Dominion is encountering resistance from some of his fellow Republicans:

Del. Tom Gear (R-Hampton), who chairs the Alcohol Beverage Control subcommittee of the House General Laws committee—the group likely to be the first to consider the plan if the governor calls a special session this fall—said Tuesday that he has "reservations."...

Gear...said he was concerned by suggestions that Costco and Wal-Mart would be able to sell liquor in a new system. He said he's worried the big companies could make it tough for small retail businesses to successfully compete in the market.

"My idea was to create jobs from small operations, mom-and-pop stores," he said. "Costco can put in liquor and never have to hire a single person."

Gear evidently sees liquor privatization as a stimulus program that should be judged by the number of jobs it creates. According to this view, big discounters like Costco and Wal-Mart cannot be allowed to compete with "mom-and-pop stores" because they are too efficient. By the same logic, Virginia should force liquor retailers to operate like a Chinese department store, assigning one employee to give the customer a card representing a bottle of bourbon, another to take the customer's money and stamp the card, a third to accept the stamped card, and a fourth to fetch the bottle. That would create four times as many jobs as a self-serve system where the customer takes his purchase to the cashier. Where have we heard this kind of reasoning before?

If Gear cared about consumers, he would welcome competition, which drives down prices, widens selection, and improves service. Instead he wants to replace a state monopoly with a state-enforced cartel. Which is the party of free markets again?

Previous coverage of McDonnell's privatization plan here. Perhaps Virginians should count themselves lucky that they can at least buy beer and wine (but not distilled spirits) in grocery stores.

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  • Suki||

    By the same logic, Virginia should force liquor retailers to operate like a Chinese department store, assigning one employee to give the customer a card representing a bottle of bourbon, another to take the customer's money and stamp the card, a third to accept the stamped card, and a fourth to fetch the bottle. That would create four times as many jobs as a self-serve system where the customer takes his purchase to the cashier.

    That is golden!

  • NoVAHockey||

    I visited Cambodia and got my visa on arrival. You give $20, 2 passport sized photos, your passport, and an application to the official, who passes down it a row of 15 other officials. Each inspects and does something to the application. at the end you have your visa.

  • Law Student||

    My family did the same thing. Yet it was still far quicker and easier than getting a visa to anywhere in Europe (and probably easier than it is for people coming into the US).

  • Abdul||

    Isn't that the Ikea system?

  • ||

    Ah, the heady days of Service Merchandise.

  • Suki||

    Cuervo golden!

  • creech||

    What about job #5, the guy who walks the package to your car to make sure you don't hand it off to some underage yoot?

  • ||

    Alcohol regulation makes no sense to me, especially in states that have state-run stores.

    In Colorado, they hemmed and hawed that allowing Sunday sales would hurt the small store owner. What do you think happened?

    But there's still a law on the books that requires grocery stores to sell 3.2% beer instead of regular strength.

  • ||

    Really? I thought it was just a Utah thing.

  • ||

    Kansas to.

  • Jay Dead||

    And Minnesota

  • ||

    Yeah, you would think a state with a vibrant beer culture would eschew such laws. There are some other inane laws as well, including one that I'm pretty sure prevents people from owning more than one liquor store.

  • ||

    There are teetotaling morons in every state.

  • Mustaf Herod Apyur Poupr||

    There are...morons...EVERYWHERE

  • Leroy||

    I most certainly do not have a rod up my pooper. Yet.

  • B.P.||

    In Colorado they're not teetotalers, they're small business protectionists.

  • ||

    Aided and abetted by teetotaling morons.

  • waffles||

    'Wowser: an ineffably pious person who mistakes this world for a penitentiary and himself for a warder'

  • Gaunilo||

    I like to think of them as tetotalitarians.

  • ||

    3.2%? I'm surprised they're even allowed to call it 'beer'.

  • CatoTheElder||

    The really amazing part is that one must be 21 years of age to purchase the watered-down brew.

  • ||

    Actually, the notorious beer swilling Australians have developed a 2.5% BV product called "Bitter Beer". There was one, Boag's Tiger Eye from Tasmania that was actually extremely good.

  • ||

    Hmm, sounds similar to our system.

  • ||

    Yeah, this,

    ...a Chinese department store, assigning one employee to give the customer a card representing a bottle of bourbon, another to take the customer's money and stamp the card, a third to accept the stamped card, and a fourth to fetch the bottle.

    reminded me of how the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and Brewers Retail (now The Beer Store, I believe) stores operated until the mid seventies. But then, it's about how I remember Utah's state stores operating around the same time too.

    My ex-wife's father kept his Ontario liquor permit book from the twenties to show people for fun. Back in the day it let him buy a single one fifth bottle of spirits once a month. needles to say, the old bastard always filled his quota. :)

    Of course, many people also don't remember that it was also not legal in Ontario for a woman without a male escort to go into an establishment that served alcohol until about 1970. Nor was it legal for men not escorting women to drink in a room in a tavern with women present. Most establishments had two rooms, a Mens' Room (which not the toilet, although it often resembled one), and another marked Ladies and Escorts.

    Moving to Florida, where at one time a good host always made a point of offering his guests a drink to take on the road with them as they left to drive home was quite an eye-opener.

    I generally bring things like this up when Canucks get all high and mighty about 'merican puritanism.

  • ||

    "Back in the day it let him buy a single one fifth bottle of spirits once a month."

    I'm a beer guy and buy liquor very rarely. But I think that law would have the unintended consequence of making me purchase a bottle every month.

  • Paul||

    Fingers crossed on Washington's attempt to pass liquor privitization.

  • ||

    Say what you like about California, it's got bloody good liquor stores.

  • alan||

    One would think that it would have to.

  • ||

    I think the only thing that really matters to booze buyers is location. Unless you're looking for some rare-ass shit, you can find the same liquor in any store (for pretty much the same prices), so the vast majority of consumers will just go to the place that's closest, whether it's a Costco or a hole-in-the-wall.

  • robc||

    Part of the reason I dont buy at Wal-Mart is they dont have the beer selection of some other stores. Distance is about the same. Plus, less mayhem in the liquor store parking lot.

  • ||

    Wal-Mart has a terrible beer selection, as does Target, Costco, etc. But most of the supermarket chains here in WA have quite a good selection, so going to specialty shops isn't usually necessary unless you're trying to find Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA (which they haven't made in a while, so it's impossible to find) or something.

    I mean, I can get Sierra Nevada Torpedo at the shitty corner store across the street from my apartment. That's pretty damn cool.

  • ||

    For a while our local Costco had mixed cases, half Torpedo and half pale ale for something like $25.

  • ||

    What's their Summerfest pilsner like?

  • ||

    Don't know, but I might try it soon. I'm an IPA/hops guy myself, so pilsners are way to mild for me.

  • ||

    Let me know how the Southern Hemisphere Harvest is too - NZ hops!

  • ||

    Now that sounds good. Will do.

  • Nephilium||

    Both are quite tasty for different reasons. The Summerfest is a nice easy drinking beer in days that sit at 90+ degrees with high humidity... when going through a strong Imperial Stout or a thick IIPA.

    The Harvest ales are just delicious... both the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere versions. Nice fresh hops, good balance, and reasonably priced.

    And Epi... I'm a hophead as well... but there are a couple of Pilsners I'd recommend... Troegs Sunshine, Victory Prima, Stoudts Pils, and Lefthand Polestar. All of them have a nice crisp hop bite.

  • ||

    Cheers dude, thanks for the rundown.

  • Warty||

    Yes, but it's cool to get cases of Kirkland beer. I love that we live in a world where it exists.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Took a flyer on a case of that stuff recently. Not bad.

  • ||

    I finally tried some of the Kona Brewing stuff and got a 6 of the Wailua Wheat Ale.

    It tasted like I big mouthful of bad yogurt; sour as hell and as tasty as an old dish sponge. Has anyone else ever tried it? Because I'm ready to go to Hawaii and burn down the brewery for that swill. No one else should ever have to taste anything that bad.

  • Virginia||

    never liked Kona. i had a longboard lager (something like that) one time and coulda swore Satan himself pissed in my glass after eating a heroic plate of asparagus.

  • ||

    Why does all food that is made in Hawaii seem to be disgusting shit? Macaroni salad with mayonnaise? Rolls with sugar in them? Spam sushi? WTF?!?

  • ||

    They roast whole pigs. But it's like they completely gave up after that.

  • ||

    I was watching some show on the Food Network, and the host went to Hawaii and it was some place that made some "renowned" dish (the rest of the show was similarly renowned dishes all across the US).

    It was some basic pork thing over white rice. That was it. I thought they were joking at first, or that they'd say "and THEN we put on the crazy awesome shit"...but no.

  • Brett L||

    What else do you need?

  • moosecat||

    i'll usually go to the place that i know i'll get the best prices

  • rex||

    I have serious doubts you have ever been to a Chinese department store

  • Paul||

    The North Korean ones are way better.

  • CatoTheElder||

    I really was that way twenty years ago, but times have changed in China.

  • Joe R.||

    I have been to several, and his description isn't far off the mark.

  • robc||

    Has Gear ever been outside the state of Virginia?

    We have mom&pop; liquor stores, chain liquor stores, and Costco/WalMart all selling beer/wine/booze.

    Somehow none run the others out of business.

  • Spartacus||

    Costco sells a limited selection, in large volumes. There is no getting just a pint of liquor in Costco, or beer in units less than a case. Our local Costco has exactly two brands of tequila in stock, and not much more of anything else. If you want selection, you have to go somewhere else that offers it.

    Both types of stores survive in proximity to each other. Gear is a dimwit.

  • Virginia||

    I guess they didn't get Gear's memo that they're supposed to have been run out of business.

  • Virginia||

    Gear...said he was concerned by suggestions that Costco and Wal-Mart would be able to sell liquor in a new system. He said he's worried the big companies could make it tough for small retail businesses to successfully compete in the market.

    No more difficult to compete than against a state-controlled monopoly where competition is illegal.

    All these big government nanny-state moralizers can pound sand. I like Bob Marshall but on this issue he's wrong.

  • ||

    What is the point of having all this government power if you can't force people to behave as *you* wish?

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    You know who else was against privatizing liquor stores...

  • BakedPenguin||

    Florida is pretty loose, although some places have Sunday blue laws (really fucking annoying when you go out on Saturday night and want to pick up a couple beers at 2 am), and a state law against packaging beer or malt liquor in 40 .oz bottles. Apparently, forcing people to buy quarts instead saves people from alcoholism.

  • ||

    BP, at least in Central Florida it's only a few cities, like Orlando that have barred Sunday sales. You usually don't have to go far to get outside city limits to find a haven.

    On the other hand, in the Panhandle, there are entire counties (plus the adjacent ones) that are dry on Sundays.

    I remember back in the early nineties there was a single block that was unicorporated Orange County completely surrounded by Orlando. On that block was an ABC store. Quite a busy spot on Sunday it was.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Isaac - I think Winter Park has the same crap, b/c I tried to buy there on a Sunday, and couldn't.

    Next time it happens, I'll drive up to Seminole county. I can't believe Casselberry would have any restrictions on Sunday boozing.

  • ||

    Altamonte certainly doesn't. I can't remember if Sanford does or not.

    I know that in OC besides Orlando, Apopka does. Actually I didn't think Winter Park did, I seem to recall getting beer at Whole Foods there at least once on a Sunday. Same with the Publix on 17-92. But perhaps I misremember.

  • Butts Wagner||

    I think Winter Park has the same crap, b/c I tried to buy there on a Sunday, and couldn't.

    As a native WPer, I cannot sit idly by as you besmirch her good name. I guarantee that you can buy in Winter Park on Sundays. And I'm pretty sure you can buy on Sundays in Orlando as well. The worst part about Orange County was the fact that sales ended at like 11:45 every night.

  • ||

    If they allow Sunday sales in Orlando it's been changed since the mid-nineties. I distictly remember trying to explain to a of German tourist couple who were upset at being unable to buy a bottle of wine at the Publix at Kirkman and Conroy-Windermere that if they drove a mile or so to the Goodings on Sand Lake Road they could buy all the wine they wanted.

    You're right about Winter Park, though.

  • robc||

    About 2/3rds of KY is dry on Sunday. And the other 6 days.

    Louisville recently (5?6? years ago) allowed Sunday sales. I think Lexington has followed us on that.

    But, there are parts of the state that are 1.5 hours from the nearest legal liquor.

  • ||

    Which is the party of free markets again?

    It's the same major party that is for civil liberties and fiscal responsibility. Just ask them, both parties are for all of the above. Politicians talk the talk (e.g. Rs on fiscal responsibility, Ds on civil liberties) but refuse to walk the walk. If it decreases governmant control both parties are against it. And vice versa.

  • ||

    Stupidest blue law I ever encountered was when I worked in a liquor store in New Jersey while in college. That particular municipality had a law that stated it was kosher to sell beer and wine at 9 a.m. on Sundays, but verboten to sell liquor until 1 p.m.

    You can imagine the confusion and anger that engendered from the clientele.

  • ||

    I remember being astounded that I couldn't buy beer at the grocery store in NJ. I must have wasted ten or fifteen minutes trying to find the beer section in the Acme in Haddonfield. I finally asked and boy was my face red?

    Oh, and that whole not being able to pump your own gas thing is for the birds, too.

  • ||

    If they don't control everything, how are they supposed to steal? A politicians have to make a living to.

  • Paul||

    Here in Vashington, ve haff great Hero of Vashington State proudly vorkink in Liquor Store of ze People!

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    It's not like private liquor stores try terribly hard on the decor front, but this image combines all the things I don't like about state store in one neat package tied up with a bow on top.

    Flashbacks to Virginia and Alabama despite the plains setting.

  • CatoTheElder||

    The really crazy place for state liquor stores is New Hampshire. The state bans commercial billboard advertising on the highways, but every state liquor store near the interstate highway is treated to official highway signage such as "Exit 11 / NH Liqour Store / Lottery Tickets / 1 Mile"

    http://evidiot.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/nhliquorstore.jpg

  • David||

    Which is the party of free markets again?

    Uh....is this a trick question?

  • Robert||

    Why not just give people money instead of inefficiently hiring them for make-work jobs? Are people's sensibilities worth that much of a waste?

  • ||

    One of the few (only?) advantages of working in Maryland is picking up liquor at lunch at a 40% discount to if I had purchased it in Virginia.

    Virginia's >10 cents a gallon cheaper for gas, tho.

  • ||

    Why not just give people money instead of inefficiently hiring them for make-work jobs?

    We have to boost their self-esteem.

  • Fluffy||

    So, wait.

    Costco can apparently add entire product lines and serve an entirely new customer base without increasing labor inputs?

    Why aren't we taking more advantage of this?

    We need Costco health care! They could start offering health care, and do so at no marginal cost with no new employees!

    Tom Gear just solved the health care 'crisis'!

  • Paul||

    Why doesn't the government take advantage of this?

  • ||

    Thing is, is that Costco also sells things like whole bean coffee, tires, milk, veggies, cereal, eggs, OJ, etc, yet the cafes grocery/tire/coffee stores don't seem to go out of bidness all that much. in fact, they're doing quite well.

  • ||

    Virginia should force liquor retailers to operate like a Chinese department store, assigning one employee to give the customer a card representing a bottle of bourbon, another to take the customer's money and stamp the card, a third to accept the stamped card, and a fourth to fetch the bottle.

    isn't that how Costco operates when it comes to some of their electronics?

  • ||

    As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that "Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public." The MORI study also reported "Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit..." and "Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector."
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.
    *** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***

    Please sign this petition and help repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

    www.stoptheban.org

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com.....tector-ban

  • Byron||

    You had me up until this bullshit:

    *** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***


    What the hell gives the state a claim to that so-called 'revenue'??? How does this help the business community you were so concerned about earlier? Do neighboring states have this surcharge?

    "You're not breaking the law enough! Everyone must pay more!"

    Jackboot slut.

  • Tango Mike||

    If I want to have a party in Pennsylvania, the state I call home, here's the procedure:
    1. Wine and distilled spirits - State Store (gov't owned)
    2. Beer in quantities no smaller than a case - beer distributor
    3. Beer in quntities no larger than two six packs - bottle shop or bar
    4. Mixer and snacks - grocery store

    They are experimenting with the absolutely radical notion of selling beer in a very few grocery stores. Of course, it has to be segregated from the rest of the store, with its own register. Did I mention that the state stores are a union shop where actual adult humans make $15 - 20/hr to stock shelves?
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08027/852212-85.stm

  • wingnutx||

    I looked for beer all over the damned grocery store in Philly before I found out about your barbaric liquor laws.

    BARBARIC!

  • lunchstealer||

    I would just like to point out that fuck 3.2 laws.

  • ||

    +1

  • wingnutx||

    Costco sells liquor here, and we still have plenty of small liquor stores.

    They don't serve the same market. I can get giant bottles of a few kinds of booze at Costco (and I do). If I want something smaller, or something other than Costco's small selection, then I go to a smaller store.

    Convenience stores and grocery stores sell liquor here, but that doesn't make smaller stores extinct.

    Smaller stores here often have drive-throughs, and sell to niche markets.

  • ||

    It warms my heart to know there are places in the US that have terrible systems like here in Canada.

    However, at least you can cross state (county) lines and get a good selection without having to get processed through the Canadian Tax Collection Centre that doubles as a border crossing.

    Last time we crossed the border back to Canada there were four questions.

    1. Where do you live?
    2. Total value of goods purchased?
    3. Types and volumes of alcoholic beverages?
    4. Any tobacco?

    No ID required. Easy to see why we have a border here in Canada.

  • cheap watches||

    en,you can find whatever watch you want on my name

  • Justen||

    The real base problem here is the idea that "job creation" is a positive thing. "Jobs" = "work" = "labor". If we are creating labor irrespective of productivity, we are in other words working harder to do the same thing. This is undesirable for what should be, but obviously are not, obvious reasons. Creating work is the absolute worst possible goal imaginable; instead, focus should be for each individual and organization on increasing output. That people are unemployed in a time of historically high productivity around the globe demonstrates not a problem of lack of labor to be done, but lack of incentive (or massive disincentive) to go into new business or else reduce the workload of each individual so that more are employed for less time each.

    If there are millions of people with useful skills in all areas of business out of work due to improved productivity, new businesses should be sprouting up left and right; instead we have a recession. The largest cause is that it is not in the interest of existing business to see new competition on the market, and existing business have a trump card in the form of entrenched political power (read: violence) to suppress would-be competitors. Though it plays out in subtle ways through the manipulation of regulation, taxes, and credit the cause and the effect are both obvious.

  • دردشة||

    thanks

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