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History of Virginia ABC

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was created under the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, Chapter 94 of Acts of Assembly, Session of 1934 and subject to amendments thereto.

Inside 1930's ABC Store ABC Store 205 circa 1948

The following events led to the creation of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control:

  • The 21st amendment, repealing the 18th prohibition amendment, was approved by Congress during Hoover's last month in office. States then began the process of voting for ratification.
  • In April of 1933, Congress legalized the sale of beverages containing not more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight.
  • Virginia Governor John G. Pollard was a loyal prohibitionist. However, Pollard was persuaded by Senator Harry Byrd and Representative Bill Tuck that there was strong enough support to call the Virginia General Assembly into special session to legalize 3.2 percent alcoholic beverages. The Assembly met in Richmond, August 17, 1933.
  • The General Assembly did three things at the special session:

    1. Immediately legalized the sale of 3.2 percent alcoholic beverages.
    2. Called for a special election to let the people of Virginia decide whether to continue State Prohibition if National Prohibition was repealed or, in place of State Prohibition, to adopt a "plan of liquor control".
    3. Created a committee to draft legislation for such a plan in the event Virginians voted to end prohibition in Virginia.
  • The special election was held on October 3, 1933 and Virginia voted 99,640 to 58,518 to ratify the 21st amendment and 100,445 to 57,873 to devise a plan of liquor control to supersede State Prohibition.
  • Delegates elected by the voters formally ratified the 21st amendment at a special convention held October 25, 1933. Virginia was the 29th state to ratify the 21st amendment.
  • State by state began to ratify the 21st amendment. Thirty-six states were needed for ratification. Finally Utah, on December 5, 1933, became the 36th state to ratify. The president signed the proclamation that evening and prohibition was over.
  • The Assembly committee responsible for recommending the best plan of liquor control, studied the control systems used by other states, Canada, and some European countries. In January 1934, the committee presented its report to the General Assembly for final consideration. The report was known as Senate Document 5. Image of an ink well
Eight principles were set forth by the committee, which it felt were indispensable for the efficient functioning of a liquor control plan.
The committee recommended a combination monopoly and license system patterned after the system then used in Quebec, Canada. The plan called for all hard liquors to be sold by the State with lighter beverages to be dispensed by licensees of the State. The committee also recommended that the system be administered by a three-man Alcoholic Beverage Control Board with certain powers to enforce liquor control in the State.
  • The committee's final report, along with proposed legislation designed to implement its recommendations, was received well by the 1934 General Assembly. The plan was adopted virtually intact on March 22, 1934, and the first three Board members of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control were appointed: Mr. T. McCall Frazier, Major S. Heth Tyler, and Colonel R. McCarthy Bullington. Here is a list of ABC's Commissioners to the Present.
  • In 1936, the General Assembly granted full police powers to the Department's designated agents so that they might take more responsibility for enforcing the laws against bootlegging and moonshining. Local and federal officials had originally been expected to perform the enforcement functions, but more help was needed. This law permitted the Department to establish a force of investigators, who over time mounted successful campaigns against illegal liquor in Virginia.

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