Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
Return to ABC's 75th Anniversary PSA Web page.
Announcer: Welcome Back to Virginia This Morning.
Greg McQuade: Good morning. Welcome back. It's almost 9:45. They called it the "Noble Experiment," but Prohibition became increasing difficult for the government to control, which lead to its repeal in 1933.
Julie Bragg: Then just one year later in 1934, Virginia established a liquor control plan, which later became known as the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
McQuade: Well, Commissioner Susan Swecker joins us for a look back at 75 rich years of the ABC.
McQuade: Good morning, Susan.
Susan Swecker: Good morning.
Bragg: Good to see you. You brought quite the interesting prop with you and I'm kind of intrigued.
Swecker: This is actually when one of our citizens found out we were celebrating our 75th year, offered this jug of confiscated whiskey up for the display down at the Library of Virginia, and this, we think, goes back probably to the early 1940's.
McQuade: Susan, what does the ABC do other than just what people would see - the ABC signs at a store where they sell liquor.
Swecker: It's actually really interesting. We have three goals: service, control and revenue. So while we operate 333 stores in Virginia, we also have a law enforcement component -- we have 130 agents that work with our licensees; we have a Hearings and Appeals department; we have a seven-acre warehouse full of alcohol here in the central office in Virginia that is distributed to these stores. We are a very interesting, diverse, multi-faceted agency, and also have a big education department where we spend a lot of time on educating young people about underage drinking, and also this new hidden, older epidemic about senior citizens who can fall into drinking a little too much and not realizing.
Bragg: And it's one of those things that's different depending on which state you go. Obviously, there's a state board, but I think sometimes people will notice when they go on vacation to other places, that different states will handle this area differently.
Swecker: Well they do, and one of the things when I came on the Board back in February of 2006, I was surprised to learn that there were more liquor stores in the District of Columbia than there were in the state of Virginia.
Swecker: And that comes back to your control issue.
McQuade: Also, we have some pictures coming up here, don't we?
Swecker: Yes we do.
Bragg: What are we looking at?
Swecker: This one, I'm sorry, this is the early or the first store I believe. That was in 1934, ABC opened its first four stores in Virginia, and this was when you used to have to go up to the counter and order what you wanted and they would serve you. Now our stores are just like any other retail operation where you can browse and select your product and look at the merchandise.
Bragg: That's a neat picture, what's this one?
Swecker: Alright, I love this picture because it reminds me of a great "B" movie, but back in the day we also used to have a laboratory where the products would come in, we had the chemist look at them to make sure they were worthy and that they were made of the right whatever so they could be sold. I love that. Now, we still do that today with new products, but it's done downtown at a different lab.
McQuade: And this is Col. Bullington?
Swecker: This gentleman was one of the first ABC commissioners on the first Board that was appointed in March 1934, with two other gentlemen, and I would like to add to that -- what do you bet the other two were white males also -- contrast that to the recent Board of today which was composed of three women, two of which are African American. One of my colleagues has just moved on to be a general district court judge in Chesterfield County, but we were the first all-women Board.
Bragg: And this is an early agent. Look at him. He looks tough.
McQuade: Kind of "wild west."
Bragg: Yeah, like Wyatt Earp.
Swecker: He looks tough, but he's also a little dapper looking, too. He is really styling there.
Swecker: And this is a still bust. One of the things that our agents did and still do is bust stills. This one was probably in Franklin County. I think that year, which was early 1940's -- ABC busted or confiscated about 1,700 stills. Compare that to last year, which was eight.
McQuade: Interesting, interesting history. You have some information I want to get to for the viewers.
Bragg: You can see the history of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control at the Library of Virginia. The exhibit runs through June 20th, and is free to the public. Check out artifacts from over 75 years including price lists, photos, and even the first minute book of ABC Board.
McQuade: And get some advice on seeing the signs of alcohol misuse at the ABC seminar at VCU. It's called the Hidden Epidemic: Alcohol, Medication and the Older Adult. It actually continues today until 4:30 this afternoon on VCU's campus in the university's student commons. Hear from health care and social workers about signs and symptoms of misuse. Susan, thank you.
Bragg: Thank you.
Swecker: Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Return to ABC's 75th Anniversary PSA Web page.