The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission was sharply criticized last night by Alexandria citizens and officials who said the board is insensitive to the city and administratively inefficient.
But the agency, which issues liquor licenses to restaurants, also was praised by restauranteurs and industry officials for what they said was the board's lack of corruption and low-cost management.
The comments were made during a hearing held by a state legislative sub-committee studying the possibility of giving local governments some control over issuing liquor licenses.
The subcommittee's Alexandria hearing was held because of continuing complaints by residents of drunken and disorderly behavior by people who patronize restaurants in the Old Town section of the city.
Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. called the ABC efforts to control such conduct "weak . . . they are less sensitive than they might be to the problem . . . the City Council would favor more control (over the granting of licenses), we would love to have it," he said.
Currently, 57 restaurants sell alcohol in the Old Town area. The ABC has one inspector to make sure the restaurants are obeying state liquor laws, Beatley said.
Herman Clegg, executive vice president of the Virginia Restaurant Association, said his group opposed any "wholesale changes" in ABC regulations, fearing that local control would lead to "the same kind of corruption found in other areas" where small jurisdictions decide which restaurants get liquor licenses.