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Bottoms Up?

ABC store is primed to move into Great Falls Center

The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control is close to making a decision on whether to place an ABC in the Great Falls Center. Great Falls has not had a liquor store for several years, and ABC officials say that market studies conclude there is a need for such an establishment in town .

“The ABC Real Estate Committee is exploring options for store locations in Great Falls. However, nothing is definitive at this time. Great Falls is being explored as a store site to provide residents with greater customer service, as locating a store in this area would reduce the travel distance for area residents. Currently, residents have to travel outside of Great Falls to other ABC stores,” said ABC public relations specialist Whitney Miller.

Sterling, Reston and McLean border Great Falls and are short distances away. Each has at least one ABC store.

The Great Falls Citizens Association was scheduled to discuss the ABC store at its July 6 meeting to determine how citizens, and the association, feel about a liquor store in the center of town. “There has been a barrage of e-mails back and forth on it,” said GFCA president David Olin.

John Ulfelder, also with the GFCA said, “The GFCA is going to submit comments about it. There are differing opinions on it at this point. But before there’s a final decision by the ABC Board, they do take community comments into account.”

The end date for submitting comments to the ABC Board is July 10.

Some members of the community are against the idea of a liquor store because they believe it could cause out-of-towners commuting through Great Falls to stop and purchase alcohol. One resident stated that the only thing worse than having a liquor store in that location would be to have a wig store at the Great Falls Center.

Ulfelder said, “Apparently they have done market studies, and there’s a buying community here.”

Miller said that while no firm decision has been made, “If ABC decides to locate a store in this area, it will be a small store with approximately 1,500 square feet, and it could be open for business by early 2005.”

VIRGINIA HAS AN interesting history regarding controlling the sale of alcohol. The 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th prohibition Amendment, was approved by Congress in Herbert Hoover’s final days as president of the United States. Individual states then had to vote on the ratification. Virginia’s governor at the time, John Pollard, was a staunch prohibitionist. He was eventually swayed by several colleagues, and the Virginia General Assembly met on Aug. 17, 1933, to legalize the sale of 3.2 percent alcoholic beverages.

In order to ratify the 21st Amendment, 36 states were needed. Virginia, on Oct. 25, 1933, became the 32nd state to ratify the amendment and paved the way for the sale of alcohol.

The Virginia Assembly, at the same time, determined it was best to have a plan for liquor control and studied the control systems of Europe, Canada and a few U.S. states. That plan became a series of recommendations, one of which was that the system be administered by a three-person ABC Board with enforcement powers, like controlling bootlegging and moonshining.

Another recommendation was that a hybrid monopoly and license system be implemented for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Hard liquor would be sold by the state, with lighter beverages, such as beer and wine, being sold by licensees of the state. This is the system Virginia maintains to this day.

The latest change in Virginia's alcohol laws came July 1, 2004, when ABC stores in Northern Virginia were permitted to be open on Sunday. Until then hard liquor could be purchased only in bars and restaurants on Sunday.