HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Is it time for Alabama to exit the business of booze? One state lawmaker is floating a proposal that would shut down state-run liquor stores and eliminate a decades-old monopoly that goes back to Prohibition.
Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said he and fellow lawmakers are exploring the possibility of drafting a bill that would close down retail operations of Alabama’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board. The cost-cutting move would shutter 140 state-run ABC liquor stores that employ roughly 600 state workers. Orr said the state government’s exit from the liquor industry could save Alabama taxpayers up to $45 million annually.
“There are only a handful of states that are left in the retail space,” said Orr. “Should the government be competing against the private sector, and should the government even be in the retail operation of any business?…We can ring some cost savings of anywhere between $25 and $45 million a year if we are to exit the retail sales of alcohol.”
State law currently prohibits private businesses from selling hard liquor unless they buy their supplies from the ABC wholesale division, which also has the authority to set price controls. Orr said his proposal would end the monopoly, but still leave behind some limits on liquor stores presuming the state follows the privatization option.
“We would control the number of retail outlets in the private sector that are allowed in an area so we don’t have a liquor store on every corner and have an explosion of liquor stores around the state.”
The proposed legislation would not impact the enforcement division of the ABC, which would remain in place.
Seven other states currently have government-run liquor stores. Washington became the most recent state to privatize liquor stores and sales under a new law passed last year.