Why are state liquor stores open during Hurricane Sandy? ‘Good question’ replies the governor

Posted at 2:50 PM, Oct 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-29 16:42:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – On Sunday, two days after declaring a state of emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia,  Governor Bob McDonnell announced state offices would be closed Monday as Hurricane Sandy moved through Virginia.

State-owned ABC liquor stores, however, remained open. A viewer emailed CBS 6 Monday morning to ask why.

During a Monday afternoon press briefing, CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George took the question to the governor, asking about the decision to keep the liquor stores open when so many in Virginia were told to stay home.

“Why are state ABC stores still open and who is responsible for closing them?” St. George asked the governor.

“Good question,” Gov. McDonnell replied before looking around the room for help with an answer. “Well, we hope our residents will walk to the store and walk home as opposed to [drive].”

After the press briefing, a spokesman for the governor told St. George that ABC regional managers are responsible for closing the stores. No one answered the phone at the number provided for ABC Board Chairman Neal Insley on the ABC’s website.

Around 2:00 p.m. we called three Richmond-area ABC liquor stores to inquire about their hours. The man who answered at the first store said as far as he knew, the store was open 'regular hours.' By the time we reached the second store, the person who answered the phone said they'd just received an email that all ABC stores would be closing at 2:30 p.m. A person at the third store confirmed the email.

The security guard who answered the phone at the Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control headquarters in Richmond said no one was available to answer questions from the media as the building was empty, with the exception of the security guards.

Later in the day the ABC emailed a press release which read:

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) ordered its stores closed because of inclement weather at 2:30 p.m. today, or shortly thereafter for those who were awaiting a shipment.

All stores on the Eastern Shore were closed earlier today, as well as a few stores on the Northern Neck of Virginia and the Tidewater area due to tidal flooding and power outages. Decisions to close ABC stores, according to policy, are made on a store-by-store basis by the regional and store managers, based upon conditions in the area. All stores were on a contingency plan as of yesterday where employees who live closest to stores are provided with keys, and sometimes work in stores closest to their homes instead of where they are usually assigned.

ABC will be monitoring conditions tomorrow. Store closing policies will be in effect and the agency will determine by afternoon if an overall closing will be necessary as it was today.