North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 24, 2013

Our Views: It’s time the state got out of the booze biz

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — A republican state senator from Decatur has announced that he will file a bill in the next legislative session that would get the state of Alabama out of the retail liquor business.

It’s about time.

The notion of the state-owned package store goes back to the end of Prohibition, when governments felt compelled to control alcohol as much as they could, given that they no longer could keep it away entirely on a broad basis.

Here in Alabama, the ABC Stores — often simply called “the state store” — were used by the state to clamp down on alcohol as much as they could. The premise was virtuous, at least by government standards: we’ll let y’all have your booze, but we won’t make it easy for you to get. Stores were often placed in out-of-the-way locations, far from where children would be likely to see them and be tempted.

No matter what you think of alcohol use, those notions seem rather quaint today. More to the point, the question today is why state government is operating a profit-making business, when it should be the province of private-sector businesses instead.

Alabama has been moving toward that goal for some time. Private liquor stores now greatly outnumber state stores. Here in north Jefferson County, we have one ABC Store in Fultondale, but there are several privately-run package stores in the same area, as well as in Warrior.

So why, in this day and age, is the state still directly competing with these businesses, especially when it is also the wholesaler who supplies the private stores as well?

The proposed bill would shut down the state stores and let private owners take over. Locations and numbers of liquor retailers would still be regulated, and the state would stay in the wholesale liquor business.

We’d rather see the state get rid of the wholesale side, too, but at least the bill would move in the right direction. One step at a time.

The state-store concept is one whose time has come and gone. Give the ABC Store one last parting toast, and hand over the keys to local business owners.