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New ABC Store in Fair Lakes

Virginia opened its 300th liquor store in the Fair Lakes Shopping Center on March 2. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board conducted a ribbon cutting and ceremony at the store during the grand opening. "The store will carry nearly 1,300 items," said Esther Vassar, a commissioner on the board.

The store is the latest in an aggressive expansion statewide in recent years. In 2002, the ABC Board operated 256 stores statewide, said board chair Vernon Danielsen. By June 30, 2006, the board hopes to have 325 stores opened. That, Danielsen said, would result in one store for every 24,000 state residents.

The board will then ease off of its expansions, but will continue to open new stores, "to keep up with population growth and where demographics will take us," Danielsen said.

Statewide, the stores have a gross revenue of $527 million. This year, Vassar said, the store will contribute over $240 million to the state’s general fund.

Although revenue continues to rise, Danielsen said that total alcohol consumption remains static at just over one gallon per person per year. The increases, he said, are due to more people drinking more expensive drinks.

Some of the ABC Stores' inventory has generated controversy in recent years. According to state law, all stores are required to carry a sampling of Virginia wines, and only Virginia wines, Danielsen said. However, out of state companies have sued for the chance to have their products included in the stores as well.

At the Fair Lakes grand opening, Danielsen took the opportunity to explain about the enforcement arm of the ABC Board. He said that in random enforcement efforts across the state, 50 percent of clerks at licensed facilities, including such grocery stores and restaurants, sell to minors even after they have presented identification.

The clerks, Danielsen said, don’t actually look at the identification after it has been presented. Reasoning that someone who is underage would not be brazen enough to present an ID. "When we ask the clerks, the answer we get is, ‘He gave me an ID,’" Danielsen said.

At state stores, approximately 2 percent of clerks sell to underage people, Danielsen said, adding that he and the board are working to improve compliance across the state.

The store is located at 12965 Fair Lakes Shopping Center. The hours of operation are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.