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McDonnell Still Has Convincing to Do on Liquor Proposal

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Linda Armellino, owner of Bilbo Baggins Cafe and The Green Dragon Pub in Alexandria, says she's still not sure what privatizing state liquor stores would mean for her business.
Jonathan Wilson
Linda Armellino, owner of Bilbo Baggins Cafe and The Green Dragon Pub in Alexandria, says she's still not sure what privatizing state liquor stores would mean for her business.

By Jonathan Wilson

Tuesday night in Richmond, Virginia, top aides in Governor Bob McDonnell's office will square off with opponents of his plan to privatize the state's liquor stores to raise money for transportation projects in a debate hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

But Governor McDonnell still has work to do to win support for the plan in Northern Virginia.

The governor's liquor store proposal would allow restaurant and bar owners to have hard liquor delivered to their businesses at wholesale prices.

They buy it from state liquor stores like everyone else now.

But if they wanted the lower prices, they'd also have to pay a 2.5 percent convenience fee.

Linda Armellino has run and owned Bilbo Baggins Cafe in Old Town Alexandria for 30 years. She says she hasn't made up her mind about the governor's plan, but also says that 2.5 percent convenience fee sounds suspiciously like a new tax.

"I already feel like we're being taxed enough, quite frankly," Armellino says.

McDonnell says the convenience fee would be optional--and restaurant owners who pay it would be buying their goods at more competitive prices.

"So overall, the cost of goods sold would be going down for most people in the long run," the Governor said in a phone interview.

The biggest question for Northern Virginia voters, if McDonnell pushes his plan through, will be whether it truly raises the $500 million for transportation he claims it will.

Some critics say the plan will just scratch the surface of the needs in Northern Virginia. McDonnell says the liquor privatization plan is just one part of his plan to increase transportation funding.

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