Why Are People Lining Up At Virginia ABC Liquor Stores?

Imagine a cold morning in Arlington, Virginia. The sun has just risen, and a line has already formed outside the local ABC liquor store. Enthusiasts clad in winter jackets and wool hats, armed with folding chairs and thermoses of Irish coffee, eagerly await the opening of the doors. Their mission? To secure a "limited availability" bottle of bourbon or rye, such as Blanton's, Willett and Weller.

The anticipation in the crisp morning air is palpable and, at 10am, the doors swing open and the line begins to inch forward. A flurry of activity ensues as customers enter frantically, hopeful that today will be their lucky day. Yet, for many, the mission doesn't end at checkout. This is only the beginning...

Finding Allocated Whiskeys At Virginia ABC

For whiskey enthusiasts in Virginia, the quest for limited release bourbon and rye begins with navigating the state's ABC system. Individuals can sign up for notifications via the Spirited Virginia e-newsletter or by following Spirited Virginia on Facebook. Both services inform customers about state-wide sales, release dates for allocated bourbons and ryes, and where they'll be available.

Virginia ABC store

Demand usually exceeds supply, leading to frustration among buyers, a common complaint in the world of American whiskey. Cueing up at liquor stores is a regular sight, with hopeful customers vying for a chance to purchase coveted bottles. The most desirable bottles are entered into a lottery. Winners are chosen randomly and earn the right to purchase specific allocated bottles such as Pappy Van Winkle or Michter's 10 Year Old bourbon.

What Is The Virginia ABC?

In Virginia, the sale of liquor falls under the purview of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC), a state-run entity tasked with regulating the production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The state's liquor laws were created to balance public health concerns, revenue generation, and legal tradition.

Virginia ABC liquor store

The ABC system dates back to the end of Prohibition when states implemented strict controls on alcohol to prevent monopolies and inferior products from damaging the market. As a result, Virginia operates ABC stores where all liquor products, including limited releases, are sold. Virginia is considered a "control state," a term used to describe a state where the government has a monopoly over the wholesale and/or retail distribution of alcoholic beverages.

Understanding Control States And What Sets Them Apart

In control states, the government "controls" the sale of alcohol through state-run liquor stores or agencies (the ABC), regulating aspects such as pricing, distribution, and licensing. Control states vary in their degree of regulation, and some states have stricter control over alcohol sales than others. There are 17 control states, and they can be broken into two groups.

Virginia is in the first group of eight states, which also includes Alabama, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington. In these states alcohol sales are tightly regulated, predominantly occurring through state-operated ABC stores.

The remaining nine states (Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Wyoming, and West Virginia) take a more nuanced approach. Here, the state oversees distribution and wholesale levels, while private outlets manage retail sales.

Buying And Selling Liquor In Washington, DC

New Hampshire sells alcohol tax-free, drawing customers from neighboring states. But of all the control states, only Virginia borders another municipality that allows consumers to resell bottles without restrictions. Just across the Potomac river, the liquor laws in Washington, DC are completely different. In the nation's capital, liquor stores are allowed to purchase unopened bottles from individuals for resale. This creates an attractive proposition for Virginians looking to profit from the sale of allocated bourbon and rye.

Waiting in line at Virginia ABC Liquor Store

In essence, individuals can purchase allocated whiskeys in Virginia at a state-mandated price akin to MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price), then make a quick trip to Washington, DC and sell them. Profits can be sizable since DC stores can resell these bottles at whatever price the market will bear.

Washington, DC's Secondary Market

In DC, the clientele for allocated whiskey bottles often includes lobbyists, politicians, and corporate executives. These individuals leverage expense accounts and lobbying budgets to acquire prestigious bottles for gifting purposes. Since these customers aren't buying with their own money, markups are irrelevant. Price tags most consumers would find absurd, are simply considered the cost of doing business for this clientele.

To capitalize on the demand, DC liquor stores raise their prices. Some view this practice as price gouging, but others see it as a reflection of market dynamics and the value placed on luxury goods. DC store owners insist that without their corporate clients it would be difficult to run a profitable business.

Flipping Allocated Bourbon

The practice of flipping limited release whiskey bottles for profit raises questions about fairness and accessibility. Some view it as a legitimate means of supplementing income, while others argue it exacerbates scarcity and inflates prices beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.

Rather than condemn bottle flippers outright, it's worth examining the systemic factors driving these behaviors. After all, the secondary market for allocated bourbon and rye does serve a purpose: It allows enthusiasts to find rare bottles they wouldn't be able to get otherwise. It helps individuals put a little extra money in their pocket in a dreary economy where quality jobs are few and far between.

The journey from Virginia's ABC stores to Washington, DC's elite customers is a microcosm of the complexities of regulation, interstate commerce, and consumer demand. Due to passion and profit, the pursuit of limited release bourbon and rye has transcended state boundaries. As long as each state operates its own legal framework for liquor, we'll continue to see long lines at Virginia's ABC stores.



There's more...

Dejar un comentario

Por favor ten en cuenta que los comentarios deben ser aprobados antes de ser publicados