Liquor stores in Virginia are terrible. They're owned and operated by the commonwealth's Department Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and if you're looking for anything snootier or more unusual than Maker's Mark, you're probably SOL. The lighting is bleak. The clerks have all the enthusiasm for their product of middling DMV employees. (Come to think of it, DMV employees may actually be more enthusiastic about the work+hooch combo than ABC staff.) And the hours are inconvenient.
But serious Old Dominion boozehounds see a ray of hope in their tequila sunrises: Former state attorney general and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell proposed privatizing the whole mess in a press conference yesterday, conducted (seriously!) in a parking garage.
The idea is win-win. End 75 years of incompetent state alcohol sales management and the state gets a bunch of cash for transportation spending when it sells off the rights to run a private liquor store.
In case you're waffling on whether this is a good idea, go spend 5 minutes on Virginia's weirdly self-congratulatory booze biz website. Historic photos celebrate milestones. Like 1970, when the first lady clerk, Betty Wilson, was hired. Thank goodness government was running that rum, how would we have achieved gender equality otherwise? (Note: I think the guy in my local liquor store in nearby Alexandria is still wearing her coat.) Lady boozemongers were an innovation that appeared just a couple of years after Virginia started licensing sales of "liquor by the drink" in bars.
In its early history, Virginia ABC agents were also enforcers of anti-bootlegging and moonshining laws, allowing the government run stores to deal very effectively with private competition.
Get a shot of wonkery on package store privatization over at the Reason Foundation blog.