State-run liquor stores an unnecessary hangover from times long past


It’s not often you go to a government website and find recipes for mixed drinks. However, go to the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board webpage the home screen you’ll find a link to drink recipes.

The state will tell you how to make a “Purple Rain” (which includes rum, vodka, gin, tequila, and triple sec if you were curious), “Irish Eyes” or even a chocolate margarita. If that’s not enough, if you visit the state pricing sheet you’ll get nearly 20 pages more of drinks. 

Why the push for strong beverages and spirits by our government? They’re in the alcohol business. Alabama is one of 17 states nationally that’s still a control state, but not to worry, they do so for your own good.

From its website: “Following the era of Prohibition, each state individually decided how alcoholic beverages would be managed within its borders. The people of Alabama did not want alcoholic beverages marketed like soup and soft drinks. Recognizing the lethal potential of alcohol, Alabama citizens demanded its rigorous control. The ABC Board was legislatively created to fulfill this mandate.”

Spotlighted on the homepage of the ABC board and paraphrased in their pricing sheet is an op-ed from ABC Administrator Mac Gipson that makes the case to continue the state program. He also argues against Senate Bill 115 , saying it would, “ultimately (lead) to higher prices, as well as increased consumption with all its associated social ills.”

Aren’t you glad the state is here to save you from the “lethal potential of alcohol?” Could there be other interests beyond that residents of this great state need it to run liquor stores to keep them from becoming a heathen free-market system?

Well, there’s all those jobs Gipson cites that would be lost. Only problem is that SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr addresses that. According to the committee report on the bill:

  “This bill also requires the Board to fill any nonessential positions with displaced ABC employees of retail operations. The bill also requires displaced employees receive (1) a five percent bidding preference when submitting an individual bid or submitting a bid on behalf of a corporation, partnership, association, or other business organization, of which the displaced employee owns at least a 50 percent interest and (2) five additional points on a state examination for appointment to the classified service for a period of two years. In addition, displaced employees shall be given a 20 percent discount on retail license and permit fees for the first two years after issuance. The bill also allows a licensee to receive a 20 percent discount on license and permit fees for employing a displaced employee full-time, for 12 consecutive months or longer. The discount would be given for each complete year the displaced employee is employed full-time, for up to five years.”

Looking for other reasons to continue this not-so conservative, not-so free-market program, there’s always that big government rarely likes to end a program and return services to the market where they belong. Then there’s this a strong lobby against change: Monday morning, AL.Com’s Cameron Smith published Meet the money behind the effort to keep Alabama in the liquor retail business. In it he links to a letter Bob Leavell, former Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) administrator under Governors Folsom and James, sent to the landlords of the states liquor stores.  Leavell pleads with them to contribute to a fund for lobbyists to fight Senate Bill 115, which would open up the market. In it he says, “If you thought this Bill was not going anywhere; that it would die or get killed like it always has, you need to think again!”

Let’s hope he’s right!  The fact is the prohibition days are long behind us and so should be the days of state-run liquor stores.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Doug McSchooler