The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Virginia ABC) is one of the eleven public safety agencies under the . The agency administers the state's ABC laws (created by the General Assembly) with an emphasis on public service and a focus on protecting citizens by ensuring a safe, orderly and regulated system for convenient distribution and responsible consumption of alcohol.
The agency is a leading revenue producer for Virginia. The profits that Virginia ABC contributes—collected from sales of distilled spirits at ABC stores, taxes collected on beer and wine sales, violation penalties and license fees—provide much needed funding for use in programs across all secretariats, thus benefiting citizens in all areas of the state whether they choose to drink or not.
Since its establishment in 1934, Virginia ABC has contributed $8.6 billion to the Commonwealth’s general fund, which supports major education, health and transportation initiatives.
Virginia ABC—made up of a team of nearly 3,500 statewide employees—works to ensure that adults of legal drinking age who choose to responsibly consume alcohol can do so in a safe environment that complies with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
As one of 17 control states and localities across the United States—where the state government manages the sale of distilled spirits at the wholesale level—ABC stores are the only retail outlets in Virginia where customers may purchase distilled spirits.
As part of modernization efforts, Virginia ABC recently debuted that is consumer-friendly and offers product information, availability and online ordering.
In response to the 21st amendment (repealing the 18th Prohibition amendment), Virginia Governor John Garland Pollard called the Virginia General Assembly into special session to legalize 3.2 percent alcoholic beverages. The assembly met in Richmond on August 17, 1933.
On October 3, 1933, in a special election, Virginia voted 99,640 to 58,518 to ratify the 21st amendment and 100,445 to 57,873 to devise a plan of liquor control to supersede state Prohibition.
Delegates elected by the voters formally ratified the 21st amendment at a special convention held October 25, 1933, making Virginia the 29th state to ratify the 21st amendment.
A committee responsible for recommending the best plan of liquor control for Virginia presented its report to the General Assembly in January 1934. The General Assembly voted to adopt the “liquor control plan” on March 22, 1934, marking a decisive moment in Virginia history by creating the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The first three Virginia ABC Board members were Mr. T. McCall Frazier, Major S. Heth Tyler, and Colonel R. McCarthy Bullington.
In 1936, the General Assembly granted full police powers to Virginia ABC's designated agents to assist local and federal officials enforce laws against bootlegging and moonshining. This permitted Virginia ABC to establish a force of investigators, who over time mounted successful campaigns against illegal liquor in Virginia.
Currently, there are 351 stores located throughout the Commonwealth, with 93 percent of Virginians living within 10 minutes of a retail store.
Currently, the Virginia ABC Board is composed of Chairman Jeffrey Painter and Commissioners Judy Napier and Henry L. Marsh, III . All three members were appointed to the Virginia ABC Board by Governor Terry McAuliffe .
- Operating efficient, conveniently located retail outlets for distilled spirits, Virginia wine, vermouth and mixers
- Educating citizens about the dangers of alcohol misuse and hazardous behaviors, such as driving under the influence (DUI), binge drinking and public drunkenness
- Assisting vendors, wholesalers, suppliers and producers with matters related to the state’s rapidly expanding craft distillery, winery and brewery industries
- Regulating the distribution of alcoholic beverages
- Informing the public and businesses with ABC licenses about Virginia alcohol laws
- Providing responsive and helpful customer service by fulfilling requests, fielding questions and addressing concerns
- Maintaining a strict environment of zero tolerance for underage purchase and consumption of alcohol
- Enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth pertaining to the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages
- Supplying a reliable source of revenue for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s general fund
- Promoting the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages to those of age
- Providing an effective hearings and appeals process for addressing disciplinary matters involving alcohol-related licenses held by businesses
Stores and Products
Virginia ABC has more than 350 stores throughout the Commonwealth. Locations for new stores are chosen with the goal to ensure optimum customer service and profitability for the Commonwealth. The agency also strives to make sure that customers can easily find the spirits they want by being timely and nimble when responding to market changes, product availability and consumer desires.
Virginia ABC offers a wide selection of merchandise—including mixers, vermouth and Virginia-made wines in addition to liquor—with more than 2,800 items available in the product catalog. These products are stored in the 292,285-square-foot Virginia ABC warehouse—the size of about five and a half football fields—located in Richmond on the corner of Hermitage and Robin Hood roads. The warehouse receives product from 15–20 tractor trailer trucks and processes orders for 65–70 ABC stores each work day. These transactions amount to nearly 17,000 cases of distilled spirits received and shipped daily and more than 4 million each year. The agency’s retail outlets receive a weekly delivery to restock items available for sale.
Alcohol Prevention and Public Education Programs
Virginia ABC leads the Commonwealth in alcohol prevention and public education initiatives by offering training and materials for use by licensed establishments, community groups and parents around the state. Agency education staff further empower Virginia citizens by developing partnerships, conducting speaking engagements and presenting programs that promote the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages to those of age and zero tolerance to those underage and highlight the dangers of alcohol misuse and hazardous behaviors, such as driving under the influence (DUI), binge drinking and public drunkenness. In addition, the agency provides thousands of dollars in grant funding to enhance community coalitions and programs at Virginia colleges and universities.
Virginia ABC develops and implements statewide alcohol education and prevention programming that is based on current data and trends. With nearly a dozen programs, Virginia ABC offers important information for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, of-age adults, licensees, aging adults, other state agencies, community coalitions, non-profit organizations and faith-based groups.
- Alcohol and Aging Awareness Group
- Being Outstanding Leaders Together against Drugs and Alcohol
- College Tour
- Managers’ Alcohol Responsibility Training
- Miss Virginia School Tour
- Project Sticker Shock
- Responsible Sellers and Servers: Virginia’s Program
- Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council
- Virginia Office for Substance Abuse Prevention
- Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project
Bureau of Law Enforcement
Virginia ABC's Bureau of Law Enforcement has a diverse range of job duties. The Bureau of Law Enforcement has nine regional offices supporting more than 100 special agents located throughout the state. Virginia ABC special agents have a diverse range of duties: conducting underage buyer compliance checks to help prevent underage access to alcohol; inspecting license applicants; enforcing ABC laws in more than 16,000 licensed establishments; and conducting criminal investigations.
In addition, the Bureau of Law Enforcement includes licensing, compliance and administrative services. Staff in those areas serve as liaisons to breweries, distilleries and wineries; inform and interact with manufacturers, importers and distributors; collect Virginia state taxes; process invoices and renewals; conduct alcohol-related training about state ABC laws; and maintain records for businesses with ABC licenses and individuals seeking licenses related to alcohol sale and consumption at private special events.
Hearings, Appeals and Judicial Services
When there is a disciplinary matter involving a licensee (i.e., a business is charged with an ABC law violation), a contested ABC license application or an issue involving the beer or wine franchise acts, Virginia ABC will hold an administrative hearing. Virginia ABC administrative law judges travel throughout the state to conduct hearings on issues brought to the agency for resolution. Opposing sides introduce evidence in support of their case before a hearings officer who weighs the evidence presented and issues a decision. Once a decision is issued, either party has 30 days to appeal to the ABC Board.
Virginia ABC licenses all entities which sell or distribute alcoholic beverages in the Commonwealth, including providing permits for one-time events. Virginia law requires a permit for any public and many private organizations holding banquets, events, or block parties. 
|ABC retail licenses||18,171|
|Licensed retail establishments||16,933|
|One-day banquet and special-event licenses||19,525|