RICHMOND – The General Assembly has passed a bill expanding the number of ABC stores that can open on Sundays.
Currently, state-owned liquor stores can operate on Sundays only in urban areas, such as cities with more than 100,000 residents. House Bill 896, sponsored by Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield, would allow the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to open any of its stores after 1 p.m. on Sundays.
“This would allow us to look at all ABC stores in Virginia, determine which ones are the most profitable, and open those stores up,” Albo said.
The Senate passed HB 896 Thursday on a 25-15 vote. The House had previously approved the measure, 69-29. The bill now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his consideration.
ABC currently operates 131 retail stores on Sunday, according to an analysis of the bill by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget.
“This legislation impacts 195 retail stores that could potentially be opened on Sunday,” the analysis said.
It noted that ABC began Sunday operations at some stores in 2004. Last year, Sunday sales at ABC stores totaled $21 million.
In the 2011 annual report of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, ABC Board Chairman J. Neal Insley said that “Sunday store sales are up 9.6 percent or $1.8 million when compared to last year.”
Curtis Coleburn, the ABC department’s chief operating officer, has projected that Sunday ABC sales could “add $5 million in profits and taxes.” (The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget offered a lower estimate of $2.5 million.) The money goes into the state budget.
Many stores in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Hampton Roads already have Sunday hours. The bill would mean that local stores could expand their hours as well.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Salon, tried to amend HB 896. He said that before opening an ABC store on Sundays, the ABC Board should be required to get the approval of the local government where the store is located.
At first, senators approved Hanger’s proposal. Then they reconsidered and voted 13-27 against the idea.