Legislators sound off about 15 ABC stores closing state-wide

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - State budget cuts will affect state-owned Alabama Beverage and Control Board (ABC) stores. The board will close 15 stores over the next three to six months.

Two are in north Alabama: Guntersville and Florence.

The 15 stores reported a combined total sales of about $11 million last year. But the total operating income was just $170,000.

 

"The cuts being made seem to fall where the services are being rendered to the citizens and not to the back offices of Montgomery," said Senator Arthur Orr.

"I’ve been an advocate for state  government to get out of the alcohol sales business for some time," said Senator Bill Holtzclaw.

 

Decades ago state leaders gave private liquor stores the green light to sell statewide. There are more than twice as many private stores than ABC stores.

This legislative session, there was a bill proposed to remove the state from liquor retail altogether. Senator Orr says taxpayers would save on ABC store operating costs, leases, and even pay to its employees.

"I would argue that if we're going to remove a store, a private sector retailer would presumably come in and hire the same individuals," said Sen. Orr.

Sen. Holtzclaw pointed out that ABC employees are state employees with who draw on a financially troubled state's retirement and other benefits.

"[I don't] necessarily think that where we need to derive our state employees," said Sen. Holtzclaw. "We need state employees in other agencies that are doing more work that is directly in the face of the services needed around the state."

Lawmakers moved more than $5 million from the ABC budget to the general fund. ABC leaders say the change jeopardized them and the closures were their only option.

Sen. Orr says he plans to re-introduce a bill to back out of liquor retail when lawmakers return to Montgomery next year.