You didn’t know that, did you? But it’s quite true. The ABC liquor stores’ advertisements and displays – all the marketing that makes the stores more pleasing to the customer – are paid for by you, the taxpayer.
You see, for the sake of a slight profit margin, we are, to quote State Senator Arthur Orr, “putting the state in competition with the guy down the street – the one paying taxes.”
Jump back to post-prohibition-era. In December of 1933, the Twenty-First United States Amendment permitted the sale and distribution of intoxicating beverages, privy to local and state laws. There are currently 18 “control” states, who, while allowing the sale of alcohol, keep it highly regulated. Alabama is one of the dozen or so that actually staff, promote, and stock their own liquor stores – on the state’s dime.
The Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control board serves as a warehouse and supply center for the liquor retail stores. It also has an enforcement and licensing division for the regulation of spirits and hard liquor, as well as beer and wine.
But the ABC board has another function. It actually operates liquor stores, such as the one in Athens on Hwy 31. We, the state, are in the retail business.
Senator Orr is spearheading a bill to privatize these stores, while carefully controlling the privatization. The number of stores will be highly regulated. The city of Athens, for instance, may not be allowed to have more than four. The “liquor store on every corner” phenomenon is not prevented by a state-run store; it is prevented by enforcement, which liquidating the state’s retail interest will leave the ABC board free to focus on.
The ABC employees don’t have to worry about losing their jobs: they will get hiring preference for other government positions they may qualify for, and private businesses that hire them will get preferential treatment in the bidding for limited slots.
There is some concern over losing revenue. Here is where a bit of speculation has to be incorporated into the plain ole’ math, because it’s hard to tell who buys from where, and why. That’s called marketing, as a matter of fact; something that started this conversation in the first place.
If we’re being honest here, the only things the government does better than the common man are enforcing the law (mostly because they made sure no one else has the authority to), building roads (that’s because the common man doesn’t have a paving machine out back), and going to war (same problem with a tank). Some would add printing money, but that’s debatable.
The ABC stores do see a small profit margin. But that’s not considering government pension plans and retirement and health care. That’s ignoring inefficiency and the possibility of mismanagement that would be eliminated in the private sector. And that’s assuming that we want our state to be in the business of selling liquor.
Alabama has had less financial difficulties than plenty of our fellow states. But watching the distress around us without changing what we’re doing would be idiotic. We cannot place the burden of more pensions, more departments, and a bigger, badder beast of a government on the shoulders of the next generation. It isn’t fair, it isn’t kind, and it really isn’t smart.
By: Melissa Kirby