News in Brief: February 2

    *General Assembly may privatize ABC stores*

    The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would privatize the state’s government-owned liquor stores.

    SB 443, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26), would close the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s retail operations. The stores would be auctioned off to private businesses wishing to sell alcohol. State alcohol taxes would still apply.

    The bill would also allow grocery stores and other businesses to apply for liquor licenses. The state currently operates 334 ABC stores, providing a revenue of $322 million in 2009 and over $1.5 billion over the last five years.

    *New Town burger joint closes doors*

    New Town restaurant Cheeburger Cheeburger closed Jan. 25 as its parent company prepared to file for bankruptcy.

    The contents of the restaurant, including furnishings and decorations, were auctioned off, and leftover food was donated to charity.

    Owner Steve Touchstone said that the restaurant’s closing was due to the overabundance of restaurants and dining venues in Williamsburg-area developments like New Town and High Street.

    Cheeburger Cheeburger is one of five businesses in New Town, including Old Navy and zpizza, to have closed in the last six months.

    *State senate strengthens seat belt law*

    The Virginia State Senate approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Harry Blevins (R-14) Wednesday, making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense in Virginia. It is currently a secondary offense in the state.Violators will be subject to a $25 fine, which will go to the state Literary Fund. The bill passed 24-16 and now goes to the state House of Delegates for consideration.

    *Senate passes bill relaxing absentee vote limits*

    With a vote of 29-10, the Virginia State Senate passed a bill that would allow registered voters to cast absentee ballots in-person without having to provide an excuse or explanation.

    However, the bill would still require voters to provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot through the mail.

    Current state law requires voters to choose one of 10 reasons for requesting a mailed absentee ballot. The bill now goes to the state House of Delegates for consideration.

    If it were to pass, the bill would make Virginia the 33rd state to allow absentee voting without excuse.


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