MONTGOMERY, Ala. – As the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board continues its search for a contractor to help secure new warehouse and office space, a pre-proposal conference in Montgomery Friday saw considerable interest from contractors across the state.
“We had a pretty good turnout today,” said Michael Bedford, who’s managing the board’s solicitation for design, build and lease proposals, or request for proposal.
The state of Alabama has considerable control of all alcohol distribution and sales, with nearly every bottle of liquor sold in the state flowing through the ABC’s warehouse in Montgomery. That warehouse, however, is no longer adequate to meet the ever-increasing volume of alcohol sales, Bedford said.
“When we take a look at where we’re going to be 10 years from now – factoring in the growth that we have and our ability to meet the needs of the consumers – we know that we’re not sustainable in the location that we’re (in),” he said at the conference. “So the type of facility that we need (has) to support the business as it stands today and moving forward.”
Since 1982, the ABC has handled alcohol distribution at its 140,000-square-foot warehouse in Montgomery. At the same site there is also a 16,000-square-foot office building. While the ABC’s available warehouse and office space has remained the same for 41 years, its demand has not.
In 2013, the ABC warehouse was handling about 2 million cases of liquor a year, Bedford said. In 2023, that figure had nearly doubled to 3.9 million, with volume increases averaging around 3% a year.
The figures for the increase in volume handled by the ABC exclude the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw volume increase by 20% in just two years.
“Probably in 1982, (the warehouse) was great with plenty of room,” Bedford told Alabama Daily News. “We only have three receiving doors, four shipping doors… for the amount that we do, it’s phenomenal we’re able to do what we do right now.”
The RFP, which the more than dozen contractors attending the conference skimmed over while listening to a presentation from Bedford, seeks four items from potential takers; a concept design and feasibility study for a warehouse, design review, a construction plan, and a lease cost breakdown. Refurbishing an existing warehouse is a possibility, ABC officials told Alabama Daily News.
While many have long advocated for a new ABC warehouse, some, such as ABC Board member John Knight, have been hesitant to throw their full support behind the idea.
Knight previously told ADN that he held concerns about the project’s cost, which he projected to be between $80 million to $100 million. He also questioned whether “the timing is right on this based on the economic conditions that we face.”
Dean Argo, relations manager for the ABC Board, told ADN that while a new warehouse could likely reach Knight’s estimate of up to $100 million, none of it would be borne by taxpayers.
“There is no cost to the taxpayer other than what we pay in a lease payment, and we’re currently paying a lease payment; there may be a slight uptick in that lease payment, but there’s not going to be an $80 to $100 million cost to the taxpayer, that will be borne by the company or person who provides the facility,” Argo said.
“I think Mr. Knight is merely trying to protect constituents that he represents; he’s always been a stalwart for making sure that the taxpayer is protected. What we want Mr. Knight and our other two board members to basically understand – and they do, which is great – (is) we’re out of options.”
Argo went on to say that expanding or modifying the existing warehouse was still a possibility, “but not the one that we prefer,” and that ultimately, an expanded space was necessary to facilitate the increasing volume of alcohol sales managed by the ABC.
While the final design and site location of a new warehouse won’t be settled until an agreement is reached between the ABC and a contractor, Bedford did have some preferences as to how the warehouse and office space should operate.
“We want to take advantage of every green initiative that we possibly can,” he told ADN.
“We want to look to the future from the standpoint of, if we’re using electric cars in 20 years, how do we manage that with our parking and that sort of thing? Are we going solar with our ability to light up our parking lights? I’m very much pushing as much green initiative as we can.”
Contractors will have until 5 p.m. on Oct. 20 to respond to the RFP.