Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control

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Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Police patch

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a state public safety agency providing control, service, revenue and a wide range of services to residents and localities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Three board members who are appointed by the Governor head the department.

As Virginia is one of 18 alcoholic beverage control states across the United States, ABC is charged with safely and responsibly administering the sale, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages. ABC operates 332 stores across the state which sell distilled beverages (beer and wine are also sold in non-ABC locations).[1] ABC's wholesale and retail operations employs 677 full-time employees.[2]

Since 1934, Virginia ABC has benefited the Commonwealth by providing law enforcement, education and prevention efforts and a major source of revenue, resulting in over $860 million in contributions to the Commonwealth for education, police, fire, public works and other projects in the last five years.

ABC has received national and state awards for implementing its Alcohol and the Aging initiative and leading the formation of Virginia's Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group.[3]

In addition to regulating the distribution of alcoholic beverages, Virginia ABC serves as an administrative hearing agency.[4] Administrative hearings can result in dismissal, fines, suspension or revocation of a license.


ABC licenses all entities which sell or distribute alcoholic beverages, including providing permits for one-time events.

ABC licenses as of 2010[2]
Type Number
Off-premise wine and beer 6,657
On-premise wine and beer 6,162
On-premise mixed beverage restaurants 4,555
Combination on/off premise wine and beer 1,750
Specialty and compliance (wholesalers, wineries, distributors, etc.) 2,279
Total 21,403

This table does not include 16,000 banquet and one-day event licenses.

Proposed restructuring of liquor sales[edit]

In August 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell advocated legislation to sell Virginia's liquor stores to private owners. McDonnell argued that retail alcohol sales is not an appropriate state activity and proposed that any sales proceeds could be used to finance transportation needs. Opponents noted that the liquor stores were generating $248 million per year for Virginia's general fund.[5]

On September 8, 2010, McDonnell presented his plan for auctioning liquor licenses to his government reform commission. Under the plan, the number of stores selling liquor would triple to 1,000.[6] McDonnell estimated that winning bidders would pay $265 million for the licenses, and that the state could receive $33 million from the sale of existing state-owned liquor store properties. In addition, $160 million would be collected in wholesale license fees. To make up from the annual loss of general fund revenues from the current state-owned stores, McDonnell proposed a $17.50 per gallon excise tax (which is above the national average and above that charged in neighboring states). He would also charge an annual fee of $500 to $2,000 to each store license holder, and would impose a new 1% gross receipts tax on wholesalers of liquor. Restaurants and bars that chose to purchase alcohol from wholesalers instead of retail outlets would pay a 2.5% tax. Just before the presentation, McDonnell dropped his proposed 1.5% fee on all restaurants and retail establishments that was in earlier drafts of his plan.[7][8]

The plan drew immediate opposition from conservative lawmakers, who viewed it as a "tax increase". It was also opposed by the Virginia Retail Federation[6] and the Virginia Wine Wholesalers Association. The Commission was expected to vote on the plan on October 4, and McDonnell planned to call a special session of the legislature to consider it in November.[1][8] The plan is endorsed by the Virginia Retail Merchants Association and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.[6]

McDonnell proposed to set aside over 100 licenses for companies that employ fewer than 50 people in order to help small, family-owned stores. He also wanted to give small businesses several years to pay off their auction bids. The Post suggested that "he might call off plans for a November special session" of the General Assembly.[9] These modifications would result in a general fund shortfall of $48 million of lost revenues.[9] This prompted a number of Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates to refuse to support the plan. According to the Washington Post, "Delegates have privately complained that the plan was developed with too little input from legislators and too much from lobbyists for retail and alcohol interests."[10] Although McDonnell had suggested calling a special session in November 2010 to consider his plan, his differences with the House Republican Caucus reportedly prompted him to abandon this idea.

On November 23, 2010, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee released a report which found that the McDonnell proposal had overstated the expected proceeds of liquor store sales and licenses. In response, McDonnell's spokesman said that he was committed to privatization and was considering alternative plans. McDonnell hired a consultant to formulate a new privatization plan at a cost of $75,000 prior to the new legislative session in January 2011. The Auditors found that McDonnell's proposal would raise the retail price of distilled spirits 11 to 26 percent, which could cause to a drop in liquor sales and a subsequent drop in sales tax revenues.[11]

On December 1, 2010, the Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring top recommendation was:

The Commission ... supports privatizing Virginia’s ABC operations and recommends continuing work with stakeholders to develop legislation to accomplish this important government reform to meet the Governor’s objectives of generating money for transportation while maintaining ABC’s enforcement role in regulating the health, safety, and marketing of distilled spirits.[12]

But the Commission did not endorse any specific privatization proposal.

In what the Washington Post described as "the biggest legislative defeat of his tenure," both houses of the Virginia General Assembly refused to hold hearings on McDonell's plan during the 2011 legislative session. Both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate killed the bill implementing McDonnell's proposal without a vote. McDonnell's director of policy, Eric Finkbeiner told the Post, "Whether we do it this year, next year or the year after, it's going to get done in this administration."[13]

Fallen officers[edit]

Since the establishment of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, seven officers have died in the line of duty, all because of gunfire. The following list also contains officers from the Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, which was later merged into the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.[14][15]

Fallen officers
Officer Date of death Details
Inspector J. C. Shelhorse[16] June 25, 1918 Gunfire
Inspector William E. Payne[17] February 21, 1919 Gunfire
Inspector Jefferson D. Lambert Jr.[18] October 18, 1923 Gunfire
Inspector Luther Simeon McManamay[19] April 24, 1924 Gunfire
Inspector James Newton Wood[20] December 19, 1930 Gunfire
Investigator Thomas M. Gravely[21] September 6, 1938 Gunfire
Investigator Floyd Fenwick Vincent[22] January 22, 1950 Gunfire

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kumar, Anita (September 4, 2010). "Legislator says ABC special session will be in November". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  2. ^ a b "ABC Privatization Proposal". Governor of Virginia. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  3. ^ "ABC 75th Anniversary Timeline". Virginia ABC. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  4. ^ "Hearings & Appeals". Virginia ABC. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  5. ^ Helderman, Rosalind (August 5, 2010). "Va. liquor profits set a high bar for McDonnell privatization plan". Washington Post. 
  6. ^ a b c Shapiro, Jeff (September 11, 2010). "Virginia retailers split on ABC privatization". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  7. ^ Kumar, Anita (September 4, 2010). "Virginia may add to fees on alcohol". Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  8. ^ a b Anita Kumar and Rosalind Helderman (August 9, 2010). "McDonnell unveils plan to privatize liquor sales". Washington Post. p. B1. 
  9. ^ a b Helderman, Rosalind (September 30, 2010). "To woo more support, McDonnell alters liquor privatization plan". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  10. ^ Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman (October 14, 2010). "Liquoir proposal causing discord in Virginia GOP". Washington Post. p. B1. 
  11. ^ Kumar, Anita (November 24, 2010). "McDonnell plan on liquor stores off by millions". Washington Post. p. B1. 
  12. ^ "Report to the Governor". December 1, 2010. p. 6. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  13. ^ Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman (February 9, 2011). "McDonnell's bid to privatize liquor stores is rejected". Washington Post. p. B1. 
  14. ^ "Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Virginia Fallen Officers". Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  15. ^ "Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia Fallen Officers". Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  16. ^ "Inspector J. C. Shelhorse, Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  17. ^ "Inspector William E. Payne, Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  18. ^ "Inspector Jefferson D. Lambert, Jr., Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  19. ^ "Inspector Luther Simeon McManamay, Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  20. ^ "Inspector James Newton Wood, Virginia Department of Prohibition Enforcement, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  21. ^ "Investigator Thomas M. Gravely, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 
  22. ^ "Investigator Floyd Fenwick Vincent, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Virginia". Retrieved 2013-12-15. 

External links[edit]