Virginia ABC enhances the quality of life for all Virginians by balancing service, revenue and control in the distribution, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Structure and Mission
Virginia ABC—made up of a team of nearly 3,500 statewide employees—is one of the 11 public safety agencies under the Secretariat of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the Commonwealth. The agency administers ABC laws with an emphasis on public service and a focus on protecting citizens by ensuring a safe, orderly and regulated system for convenient distribution and responsible consumption of alcohol.
The agency is a leading revenue producer for Virginia and the source of future economic growth and innovation for the state. The profits that Virginia ABC contributes—collected from sales of distilled spirits at ABC stores, taxes collected on beer and wine sales, violation penalties and license fees—provide much-needed funding for use in programs across all secretariats, thus benefiting citizens in all areas of the state whether they choose to drink or not. Since its establishment in 1934, Virginia ABC has contributed $8.6 billion to the Commonwealth’s general fund, which supports major education, health and transportation initiatives.
As one of 17 control states across the United States—where the state government manages the sale and distribution of distilled spirits at the wholesale level—ABC stores are the only retail outlets in Virginia where customers may purchase liquor.
In 2015, Virginia ABC was recognized by StateWays magazine, the only national magazine strictly devoted to issues that affect the states and jurisdictions where government manages distilled spirits sales. The agency earned the Best of the Best overall winner title for the 2015 Control State Best Practices Awards for its innovative initiatives that lead the industry in the areas of retail, education, enforcement and technology.
Stores and Products
With more than 365 stores in convenient locations throughout the Commonwealth, Virginia ABC is dedicated to providing those age 21 and older with an enjoyable, modern shopping environment. Considerable planning is involved in determining locations for new stores to ensure optimum customer service and profitability for the Commonwealth. The agency also strives to make sure that customers can easily find the spirits they want by being timely and nimble when responding to market changes, product availability and consumer desires.
Virginia ABC offers a wide selection of merchandise—including mixers, vermouth and Virginia-made wines in addition to liquor—with more than 2,600 items available in the product catalog. These products are stored in the 292,285-square-foot Virginia ABC warehouse—the size of about five and a half football fields—located in Richmond on the corner of Hermitage and Robin Hood roads. The warehouse receives product from 15–20 tractor trailer trucks and processes orders for 65–70 ABC stores each work day. These transactions amount to nearly 17,000 cases of distilled spirits received and shipped daily and more than 4 million each year. The agency’s retail outlets receive a weekly delivery to restock items available for sale to customers of legal drinking age.
Education and Prevention
The breadth and scope of the agency’s education and prevention work is at an all-time high. Virginia ABC leads the Commonwealth in alcohol prevention and public education initiatives by offering training and materials for use by licensed establishments, community groups and parents around the state. Agency staff develops partnerships, conducts speaking engagements and presents programs that promote the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages to those of age, and zero tolerance to those underage. These programs highlight the dangers of alcohol misuse and hazardous behaviors, such as driving under the influence (DUI), binge drinking and public drunkenness. In addition, the agency provides thousands of dollars in grant funding to enhance community coalitions and programs at Virginia colleges and universities.
Virginia ABC's newly-accredited Bureau of Law Enforcement has a more diverse range of job duties than ever before. The Bureau has increased in size and scope in recent years to keep pace with agency needs and to better connect with other law enforcement departments and agencies, building multi-jurisdiction, and sometimes multi-state, cases. Virginia ABC's Bureau of Law Enforcement has nine regional offices supporting more than 100 special agents located throughout the state. Virginia ABC special agents have full police powers with a diverse range of duties: conducting underage buyer compliance checks to help prevent underage access to alcohol, inspecting license applicants, enforcing ABC laws in nearly 19,000 licensed establishments and conducting criminal investigations.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement is also comprised of licensing, compliance and administrative services. Staff in those areas serve as liaisons to breweries, distilleries and wineries; inform and interact with manufacturers, importers and distributors; collect Virginia state taxes; process invoices and renewals; conduct alcohol-related training about state ABC laws; and maintain records for businesses with ABC licenses and individuals seeking licenses related to alcohol sale and consumption at private special events.
When there is a disciplinary matter involving a licensee (i.e., a business is charged with an ABC law violation), a contested ABC license application or an issue involving the beer or wine franchise acts, the agency will hold an administrative hearing. Virginia ABC administrative law judges travel throughout the state to conduct hearings on issues brought to the agency for resolution. Opposing sides introduce evidence in support of their case before a hearings officer who weighs the evidence presented and issues a decision. Once a decision is issued, either party has 30 days to appeal to the Virginia ABC Board.