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Even this Bernie Sanders supporter wants to privatize Virginia’s awful state liquor stores AP

Reason.tv just released a new video spotlighting the frustrating process of buying alcohol in Virginia, where an obnoxious combination of state-owned liquor stores and onerous regulations makes life difficult for entrepreneurs and customers alike.

The problem is illustrated by an interview with John Maher, owner of The Rogue Gentlemen in Richmond, Virginia. Maher is doing something called #DrunkenSocialism, which is a wildly inaccurate name for a clever scheme in which bars invest in really expensive alcohol and then let people sample tiny amounts at a cost. That way, you can taste some billion-year-old scotch without having to plunk down big money for a full bottle.

In Virginia, though, this plan is complicated by state law:

With #DrunkenSocialism, “We can give our guests really, really high-end extensive experience for cheap,” Maher says. “That’s a win-win for me.” Except, as Reason explains, doing so “is essentially illegal in Virginia thanks to restrictive state liquor laws that screw over bar owners and the average drinking man.” If Mayer doesn’t charge a mark-up on the high-end tastes he sells, Virginia says he’s giving it away for free, and that’s prohibited (I know, I know, the logic is bizarre).
Maher is also limited in what he can offer by the state’s monopoly on liquor sales through its ABC stores, which I know from experience are overpriced and have terrible selection. And, when he is able to get the product he wants, he has to pay retail prices—meaning his customers in turn have to shell out up to $18 for a single cocktail.
Those prices make it difficult for Maher to stay on the right side of yet another ridiculous regulation: at least 45 percent of his gross sales must come from food or the state can take away his liquor license.

Maher, who sports a Bernie Sanders shirt in the video, is boxed in by Virginia’s absurd regulations at every turn. And, as Reason concludes, you know it’s bad when even a Sanders supporter is advocating for privatization and deregulation.

The worst part of all this is that Virginia is hardly the only state with dumb liquor laws. It’s not even the only state with state-owned liquor stores: more than one in three states have ABC stores nationwide.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as I’ve explained before here at Rare. Blue laws and sin taxes are common ways states unfairly manipulate the marketplace and boost their own revenues, while crony capitalist regulations make it difficult for new brewers, distillers, and vintners to break into the beer, liquor, and wine markets.

Meanwhile, the legal drinking age has given teens unsafe consumption habits, and we’re still suffering the consequences of Prohibition in the cocktail market, which cost us in liquid capital, innovation, and high quality bar-tending tradition.

With a regulatory climate like this, it’s no wonder Americans need a drink.

Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at www.bonniekristian.com or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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