State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) will try again in the 2024 legislative session to privatize retail liquor sales in Alabama.
Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board officials announced recently they were soliciting bids to construct and lease a larger central warehouse and office to keep up with increasing demand.
Orr told 1819 News on Friday, "It would appear they're going to stay in the wholesale business for sure with this commitment."
"There's an argument against both wholesale and retail that we don't need to be in either but the retail battle it would be the first battle that needs to be kind of had before you get to the wholesale. You wouldn't do it in reverse in my opinion," Orr said.
Orr said, "I'll have a bill ready to go at the beginning of the session phasing out the state being in the retail business."
"I'll have the bill ready again this session. I took last session off. I knew the budget since it started in the Senate was going to be all-consuming for the first part of the session and it was and so I'm glad I didn't take that issue on," Orr said.
There are currently 168 ABC liquor stores in Alabama.
By law, the ABC Board is required to lease all facilities. The Board's central office and warehouse, located at 2715 Gunter Park Drive West in Montgomery, were leased in April 1982. The site has been modified multiple times to increase warehouse space, parking and office space. The ABC Board now requires "facilities designed to alleviate current constraints that foster continued growth and support the future business needs of the state of Alabama," according to the ABC. The current lease for the central office complex and main warehouse will expire on March 31, 2025.
If a lease for a new warehouse is finalized, Stewart estimated at a Sunset Committee meeting on Wednesday the rent would be an increase of $5 million annually.
"Yes, we can afford to do it, and I hope these are conservative. These assume 4% increases in costs a year and, on top of that, 4% an additional $5 million in rent in that last year. It assumes 3% increase in sales, and our sales this year are going up 5.8%. The 3% is conservative. The 4% of costs going up, hopefully, that's a little bit high, and I put the rent on top of that, and it still shows at the very bottom that distributions to the state and local governments will go up, and we will still have profits to distribute included in that," Stewart said at the Wednesday meeting.
Alabama is one of 17 remaining alcoholic beverage control states in the United States.
"I'm not anti-ABC Board. As a matter of fact, I'm a supporter because I'm not one of these that's pushing for privatization. I don't know where we'd replace these numbers that you just talked about," State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) told Stewart at the meeting.
State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) told 1819 News on Thursday, "I would suggest there's never been a big movement to get ABC entirely out."
"I understand there are folks that want that. There is a justification for the central warehouse to be able to have tabs on all this. I've been more of a proponent for ending the retail stores. I still contend the state could make more net money if we'd get out of the retail business but I know that a lot of the arguments on both sides for that…it just doesn't seem to be a lot of momentum there," Givhan said.
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