Richmond proposes standards for private liquor stores

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond leaders are proposing new standards for potentially private liquor stores, to prevent some of the problems that NBC12 uncovered last year.

Mayor Dwight Jones doesn't want to see drive-through sales, or liquor stores on every corner...just two of the things he's concerned about if Virginia decides to auction off liquor sales to private businesses.

Tracy Parker grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and last Fall she showed NBC12 what private liquor sales look like in her hometown.

ANDY: "So you could drive your vehicle up and get a bottle of liquor?"

TRACY: "Oh yeah, looking right here's a drive-thru window. Lots of 'em have that."

TRACY: "See, pharmacy, liquor department, one hour photo."

TRACY: "Right here in one little corner, we've got 1,2,3,4 places that sell alcohol."

The visuals we brought back home opened some eyes at city hall, where the concern is that this corner in Lexington might one day appear in Richmond.

"We did see your story, and it was an excellent story, by the way" said Roy Benbow with Richmond Planning & Development.

Top aides to Mayor Jones reviewed a study which led to a plan.

"The ordinance that we're proposing today will help prevent having a liquor store on every corner," Jones said.

The plan creates local standards for liquor stores, including locations, hours, and appearance. It also gives more power to neighbors.

"A real say, in the size, the location, and the number of liquor stores that could pop up through our city," said Charles Samuels, a member of the Richmond City Council.

For example, a liquor store in Church Hill is right across the street from a church, and under the  proposal, neighbors would have to be consulted before another store goes up anywhere nearby.

Currently, there are 11 ABC stores in Richmond, a number certain to grow under privatization. Mayor Jones said private stores tend to be concentrated in poorer neighborhoods, and with this plan he believes Richmond will be ready.

"We're just trying to get in front of it, just in case it does happen," Jones said.

Richmond leaders also looked at Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Camden, New Jersey, in coming to the conclusion that liquor stores are linked to the loss of social and economic vitality within neighborhoods.

ABC privatization must first be approved by the General Assembly. With less than a month to go in this year's session, lawmakers have yet to bring it up for a vote.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.