Searching for sought-after spirits? Virginia ABC now distributes them randomly

Virginia ABC reveals Black Friday deal
Posted at 10:50 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 11:42:05-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - On a cold, rainy Tuesday morning in March, 12 people lined up outside of the ABC Store on East Liberty Street.

David Hillery was near the front of the line.

"I'm hoping for a new release of Elmer T. Lee [bourbon]," he said.

Hilley said he knew it was a delivery day at the store, but wasn't 100 percent sure Elmer T. Lee would be available.

"You take a chance," he said. "I knew there was supposed to be a delivery, or was supposed to be, but I'm hoping for the best."

At 10 a.m., the store opened and those in line got what they were looking for and paid about $40.

"I'll be happy and enjoying a pour of this tonight," Hillery said at the time. News 3 asked whether it was worth the wait. "Yes, because it's rare," Hillery answered.

As people lining up outside of stores appeared to be happening more frequently, Virginia ABC recently announced changes to how limited-availability products are distributed.

"We were really seeing instances where folks were starting to camp out at stores before they opened. They were following trucks. That would create disruptions in our ability to unload or open for business," said Travis Hill, the CEO of Virginia ABC.

Now, ABC will post on social media and send out emails alerting people when and where certain bottles are available. On Wednesday, ABC posted that the ABC store off of Colley Avenue would have these products, including sought after bourbons like Blanton's and Eagle Rare.

People quickly flocked to the shop to try and buy the products.

"What we decided to do was randomize it a little bit, so that it discouraged folks from camping out and gave opportunities for folks to have real time opportunities to make purchases," said Hill.

News 3 spoke with customers with mixed reaction to the changes. "This system, though chaotic, does give it a better playing field," said one customer.

"I'm not really a fan of the new system, rushing to your car and rushing to grab a bottle," another customer said. "It is what it is, but it's hard to beat this stuff at MRSP."

The ABC says it's all about making things more fair. "If somebody isn't able to make it one day, maybe the next week it's a different time that's better and suits their schedule," said Hill.