RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginians bought more alcohol in the state's beverage control stores and restaurants as the state agency saw a record profit in the last fiscal year.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said the agency has seen retail sales increase to record levels consecutively for the past 15 years. The agency that runs more than 340 shops said it saw a record profit of $134 million in the last fiscal year and has contributed $1.7 billion to the state's general fund during the last five years.
According to the agency's most recent annual report, gross wholesale and retail sales increased nearly 5 percent to $769 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The number of cases of wine, spirits and nonalcoholic mixers sold increased more than 2 percent to about 4.29 million cases. That translates to more than 51 million bottles, or about 10.6 million gallons.
The number of transactions at the state-owned stores increased more than 4 percent to 27.8 million and sales to restaurants increased 5.5 percent compared with the previous year.
Corn whiskey, or legal moonshine, saw the sharpest increase in sales, jumping 123 percent to $3.8 million.
Sales of vodka increased about a percent to more than 1.4 million cases, with four brands in the top 10. But Jack Daniel's whiskey remained the top-selling brand in Virginia based on dollar figures.
The 2013 fiscal year was the third year Virginia law allowed companies to conduct product tastings in the state-run stores. About 3,120 tastings were held during the year, but officials said they were unable to quantify how successful the tastings were at driving sales. Companies are allowed to sign up to hand out samples of 1.5 ounces - or about a shot - of distilled spirits to customers.
The agency also said in its annual report that it remains committed to reducing sales of alcohol to minors. Employees at state-owned liquor stores check millions of identification cards each year, yielding a 99 percent compliance rate. And compliance rates for licensees like restaurants and bars fell from 87 percent to 85.7 percent.