Va. gov unveils plan to sell state liquor stores

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RICHMOND, VA. (AP) Gov. Bob McDonnell wants nearly $500 million from selling Virginia’s state-owned liquor stores to provide loans and grants for local highway congestion relief projects.

In a proposal released Wednesday, McDonnell calls for up to 1,000 licenses for private retail stores compared with 332 state-run stores now.

The plan reserves 600 licenses for large outlets such as grocery and discount stores. It reserves 250 for small mom-and-pop shops and another 150 for small-scale sales in pharmacies.

While the plan triples the number of outlets statewide, it increases the number of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents to police them by only one-fourth.

Not in the plan was a tax on mixed drinks sold in bars and restaurants reported by some news outlets over the past week.

As a candidate last year, McDonnell promised to put the state’s 76-year-old monopoly on liquor wholesaling, retailing and distribution in private hands to jump-start deferred highway maintenance work.

Now, the Republican governor faces a struggle overcoming doubts about the project in both a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-run House of Delegates. Democrats and even some Republicans are skeptical that privatizing the stores will yield the $230 million a year the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control stores now generate.

McDonnell has said he intends to summon legislators to Richmond in November to consider the privatization plan and several other government reform and streamlining initiatives as varied as a four-day, 10-hour work week for some state employees to disposal of surplus state property.

McDonnell is also encountering opposition to his privatization plan from the state’s restaurants, the wine and beer industry and conservative churches, concerned that the proliferation of stores will foster more alcoholism and tear families apart.