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Sunday liquor sales help fatten Virginia coffers

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Photo - AP file photo
AP file photo
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Alcohol sales are up across Virginia since lawmakers first allowed all state-run liquor stores to open their doors on Sunday.

Sales at 339 state-run Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control retail stores shot up by nearly 4 percent since July 1, when the stores were first allowed to sell liquor on Sundays. The stores brought in $243 million to state coffers by the end of October, up $9 million from the year before, according to data provided to The Washington Examiner.

"We did it for money. And obviously it's working."
-- Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield

"We did it for money," said Del. Dave Albo, the Springfield Republican who championed the legislation allowing Sunday sales. "And obviously it's working."

Before this year, only 130 stores across the state -- those in communities with 100,000 people or more -- were allowed to open on Sundays. But after the General Assembly changed the law, Sunday sales alone jumped by 65 percent over their 2011 levels, generating $14 million for the state.

Albo -- like Gov. Bob McDonnell, who signed off on the Sunday sales bill -- said he is "philosophically against" the state being in the liquor business. McDonnell has tried repeatedly to privatize the liquor stores, only to be stymied by the General Assembly.

Lawmakers decided not only that the state should hold on to its liquor stores, it should expand operations to increase revenue. Profit from liquor sales has increased every year since McDonnell took office, from $50.5 million in 2011 to a projected $54 million by 2014.

Last week, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reported that a statewide Black Friday sale alone netted $5.9 million.

"Apparently, having a monopoly is profitable," Albo said.

McDonnell has so far not indicated whether he'll try again to privatize the state's liquor business when the General Assembly meets next year, though aides said the governor remains convinced that the state should get out of the business.

"The governor continues to believe that liquor retail sales are not a core function of government," said McDonnell spokesman Paul Logan. "He supports efforts to return this function to the private sector, where it belongs."

Many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are united in their opposition to privatization, largely because they don't want to lose the revenue liquor sales generate for the state. Still, some questioned whether the state should be expanding the availability of alcohol for the sake of money.

"Do we really need people drinking on Sunday?" said Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg. "Frankly, I'd rather have them in church."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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