Virginia ABC Liquor Store Next to a School in Alexandria?

by Lee Hernly, Editor


We will gladly post reader submissions like this ANYTIME and your help with discussing issues in Alexandria is ALWAYS appreciated. You can submit items about whatever you want to talk about in Alexandria – just please keep it clean as this blog is about news, views, and things to do in Alexandria. Please contact me if you’d like to contribute and/or have something posted. 

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

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Rocket J. Squirrel
Rocket J. Squirrel
May 19, 2016 8:32 am

So true. I mean, there’s a couple of convenience stores within eyeshot of TC Williams and I know that none of those kids ever smoked or drank before being exposed to these cancers by the Shell station. But you know what else there’s a lot of near this childrens utopia? Restaurants. Lots of them serve alcohol and sugary sodas and fried foods and GMOs and–GASP!–even gluten! The NERVE! All of these things are dangerous to our kids and our public safety. I hope the Litzner family takes up this call and crusades against these harmful businesses and the detriment they… Read more »

May 19, 2016 9:30 am

A pre-school is not a school, and leasing commercial space in a multi-tenant building does not convert that building to a “school.” If the “little Montessori school” had fears of having objectionable neighbors, they should have not chosen to locate their site in a mixed-used retail office complex that is zoned to allow a variety of businesses, some of which they could find objectionable. The “school” is also a few steps from Trader Joe’s, which also sells alcohol (quite a lot of it, I’m a customer). Was this a consideration when the “school” made it’s site selection?

May 19, 2016 9:38 am

The most surprising thing about this new ABC store is the fact that there is already one at 901 N. St. Asaph Street (2 blocks away from the preschool, by the way). There is also a grocery store on the same block as the preschool and one a block away that both sell wine and beer. Next to the preschool on the other side is a nail salon and a dry cleaners, and the Donald Trump campaign office is in the same complex as this school. This is what happens when the preschool is in a multi-use complex in a… Read more »
Reply to  InTheClearing
May 19, 2016 10:15 am

InTheClearing – It is my understanding that this is a temporary location for the 901 N St. Asaph Street store while the EDENS development is under construction.

May 19, 2016 10:20 am

I look forward to this new location! As another commenter pointed out, Trader Joe’s already sells TONS of beer and wine, plus the former Teaism location had a bar that served liquor. While these are “upscale” businesses, the letter writer obviously ignores these places and gasps in horror at the idea of lower income and minority customers that will undoubtedly (in their opinion) come within FEET – ONLY A WALL SEPARATES THEM (!) of where their children go to school (daycare). The horror.

Mama Bear
Mama Bear
Reply to  Dave
May 20, 2016 12:52 pm

There were real sanitation and safety problems at the last location just a few blocks away, problems that do not exist at many ABC locations. Hopefully, they will not reoccur at this location, but parental concern is legitimate and warranted. Also, you might want to check the teachers and students involved before implying that the motivating factor in expressing concern just MUST be racism. It is quite a thing to do – you criticize others for jumping to conclusions and then jump to your own much worse conclusions – check your biases and your facts next time.

Party guy
Party guy
May 19, 2016 1:47 pm

Perhaps as the Teaism is now empty it could be converted into a strip club so consenting adults can get lapdances on their way to Trader Joe’s? If the other tenants don’t like it they should move somewhere else.

May 19, 2016 3:44 pm

I actually work by the current location. Yeah, if my kid went to this preschool I would definitely be worried. I regularly see people drinking in the parking lot and there is usually police activity about once a week or so. It’s kind of seedy, actually. My kids go to St. Anthony’s so I don’t have a bone in the fight beyond agreeing that it seems in poor taste not only because it’s a liquor store but because the area has a lot of people who are bums who like to spend time hanging and drinking by said liquor store.… Read more »

Rocket J. Squirrel
Rocket J. Squirrel
Reply to  Coco
May 19, 2016 4:10 pm

“But that’s because Old Town is literally a block by block type neighborhood. ”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Man, some people live a really sheltered life.

Government Corruption!
Government Corruption!
May 20, 2016 6:20 am

It is WRONG in every single way to have this liquor store adjacent to the preschool but who am I to say. It is the interest of big money and government officials after all.

Common Sense
Common Sense
May 20, 2016 12:23 pm

It’s simple and plain. ABC did not do their due-diligence in finding a new location to fit within their policy. ABC with 140 million profit can handle the penalty of breaking the lease with Saul Holdings and find another location AWAY from the preschool.

May 20, 2016 1:48 pm

Offering another point of view from an article regarding a Charlottesville-based ABC store:

Thank you all for your comments. From what I’m reading, I’m glad to know that we have a few volunteers that would appreciate having this store as close as possible to them. Please feel free to reach out to ABC directly and offer your location and available stores nearby as an alternative. It would certainly solve this issue in a much more amicable fashion for all involved.

T. Totaled
T. Totaled
Reply to  Kelley
May 20, 2016 4:03 pm

First, a daycare and your residence are two very different places. Second, it’s funny- I live between a 7-Eleven (that sells beer, wine and cheap food) and the city jail and haven’t experienced any issues as yet. I think you’ll be fine next to the VA ABC store- I mean we’re talking about a state store in Old Town, not a random booze barn in East St Louis.

Just Sayin
Just Sayin
Reply to  T. Totaled
May 20, 2016 11:04 pm

Your anecdote is pointless. There have, as a factual matter, been many issues at the location they are moving from, even though that too was a “state store in Old Town.”

Reply to  Just Sayin
May 22, 2016 1:48 pm

Ok, care to tell us examples with links to all these horrible thing that have happened at this location? Or is your anecdote just at “pointless” as the other?

Reply to  Leia
May 23, 2016 3:32 pm

I work directly across from the current location. I regularly see homeless men during the day drinking either right off of the parking lot or nearby on the sidewalk. I also regularly see police. I wouldn’t want my kids to go to preschool next to this.

May 20, 2016 2:03 pm

Serious question without taking sides here. Are there really that many overlapping hours when both the store and the school are in operation? I see the liquor store is open from 10:00 to 9:00, and I am guessing the school runs 7:00 to 3:00 or maybe 8:00 to 4:00? So yes, there is a bit of overlap there, but are the problems associated with the store really starting at 10 or 11 in the morning? I go to the current location regularly, and it seems the store and the parking lot are pretty deserted in the morning and afternoon –… Read more »

Reply to  dsh
May 20, 2016 2:20 pm

The school’s aftercare program lasts until 6 pm.

Reply to  Anon
May 20, 2016 2:32 pm

Ah. Thanks. That’s a little more concerning, then, especially in winter when it gets dark so early.

May 20, 2016 3:44 pm

[…] is an update to this post. Earlier this week, a reader drew our attention that the Virginia ABC is planning to temporarily […]

May 21, 2016 7:06 am

It… it’s a STORE!?? Does it have a kid-magnet that pulls all the kids out of their school and into the shop, makes them buy bottles of booze and drink it? For heaven’s sake, it’s a STORE!!! It’s not going to hurt the speshal sneauflaykes!!!

May 22, 2016 4:19 am

Well… they card the folks that try to come into the store…. so… no problem with the kids buying liquor.  ;)

I don’t see a problem.

Old town momma
Old town momma
May 22, 2016 2:39 pm

I live in old Town and have revelers at 2 am on my block all the time. Does that mean we should close all the restaurants and bars on king street..

The new ABC store on duke street don’t seem to have folks loitering. More people loitering at Starbucks up the set of stairs from the “school”.

Seems to me would make sense to talk to the landlord and move into a higher floor in the building. The school decided to locate in retail space that was their choice. The retail didn’t spring up around them.

Ivel Liverworst
Ivel Liverworst
May 23, 2016 12:57 am

Let’s be honest: anyone with a two-year old is probably going to need a drink.

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