Virginia ABC Liquor Store Next to a School in Alexandria?



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It has come to our attention the Virginia ABC is planning to temporarily open a liquor store in the Old Town North neighborhood next door to a children’s preschool. Sources tell us on this story that Virginia ABC has an internal policy to not open stores within a 1/10 mile of schools and churches. We have reached out to Virginia ABC for comment and will update if and when comment is received.

So, why is Virginia ABC willing to completely disregard their own policy? What do you think about this? Should a liquor store go next door to a children’s school?

A reader and parent of a child in the preschool located next door to the proposed liquor store writes in with more…

Dear Red Brick Town,

Why is an ABC Liquor Store moving next door to our local Montessori School?

As an employee of the federal government, it never ceases to amaze me how often common sense and reason get lost in the muddle of red tape, rules, and procedures that govern most of our processes. It appears that state governments are prone to the same weaknesses. Two weeks ago, the parents of our little Montessori school were dismayed to discover that a state-sponsored ABC liquor store was set to move next door to the school in Alexandria that cares for our 2-5 year-olds. Apparently without public comment or redress, the preschool will share a wall with a store that exclusively sells liquor to hundreds of people each day.

The vast majority of patrons that frequent ABC stores are no different than the parents of the children being taught next door; however, liquor stores come with some basic realities atypical of a normal business. The current location of this specific ABC store next to the local Giant grocery store has a consistent trickle of individuals loitering outside, either outright intoxicated or preparing to become that way while sitting in the parking lot. Just last week, when I went to the store to request the general manager’s contact information (which was not provided), I passed two men drinking in a pick-up truck near the front entrance. As an adult man, it can be intimidating to walk into this store. And for good reason – according to the Department of Justice, nearly 40% of all violent crimes involve alcohol. I find it unimaginable to picture my two-year-old daughter, her twenty-plus classmates, and the four teachers who shepherd them through their day walking back and forth to school while these same patrons purchase and drink liquor next door.

Most people would agree that movement of a liquor store next to a school for small children is not conducive to the comfort and safety of the children, teachers, and parents who attend the school. There is a very short list of retail stores that most taxpayers would find inappropriate located next to a school. Porn shops, tobacco retailers, gun stores, and liquor stores top that list. These establishments certainly have every right to exist, but locating a state-owned and operated liquor store next to a school for impressionable children is beyond the realm of reason and good sense. In two separate instances, the towns of Falls Church and Portsmouth have already protested a similar move by an ABC store near a church and a high school, respectively.

Safety concerns aside, moving an ABC store next door to our school will jeopardize its ability to retain and enroll new students. What new parent searching for a place to care for and teach their two-year-old would overlook a liquor store next door? Our school is a small business with two locations. ABC stores generated $140 million in profit for the State in 2014 due to excise and sales taxes placed on purchased beverages. By contrast, our school generates enough revenue to pay rent at two locations in Alexandria and Washington DC, employ 8-10 teachers, and support a small back office to keep the business running smoothly. Breaking the lease for the current location – including renovation expenses and any associated penalties – would not put a dent in ABC’s budget. By contrast, an unexpected move to distance itself from the ABC store would cause catastrophic damage to our school’s business. ABC’s decision endangers the community of parents, teachers, and children we’ve worked diligently to foster.

The new ABC location is slated to open in June 2016, according to Susan Johnson, ABC’s director of real estate, who found the location and coordinated the lease on behalf of ABC Stores. She also stated that the move is “temporary,” in that it will only last three years. In other words, this liquor store will be located next door for the entire length of time that my daughter and her classmates will spend in pre-school.

ABC stores provide the State of Virginia with revenue and a valid and necessary service for the sale and regulation of alcohol. But, as parents and citizens, we need to face the simple reality that these stores sell a product and have a small sub-set of customers that distinguish them from other retailers. Applying common sense, good business practices, and keeping the well-being of local voters and taxpayers in mind all lead to the simple conclusion that movement of a state-owned liquor store directly next door to a preschool is a poor choice and one that must be rectified immediately for the well-being of our children and the community at large.

Kelley Litzner