Navy Bans Early Morning Alcohol Sales

Sailors will now be required to wait until 9 am to buy booze.


Sailors will now be required to wait until 9 am to buy booze.

AP (“Navy Changes How Alcohol Is Sold On-Base“):

The Navy’s top admiral has ordered a series of changes to the way the Navy sells booze. Chief among them, the Navy will stop selling liquor at its mini marts and prohibit the sale of alcohol at any of its stores from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.


The changes are the latest addition to a broader, long-standing alcohol education and awareness program that appears to have had some success. Throughout the Navy, the number of alcohol-related criminal offenses dropped from 5,950 in the 2007 fiscal year to 4,216 in the 2012 fiscal year. The number of DUI offenses dropped from 2,025 to 1,218 during that same period, according to Navy Personnel Command.

Liquor will still be sold on U.S. bases at a discount of up to 10 percent for what it can be bought at in a civilian store, but sales will be limited to dedicated package stores or exchanges that sell a wide variety of items.

At Naval Station Norfolk, the main exchange is comparable to a small shopping mall that sells clothing, electronics and jewelry, among other things, at a discount. At smaller naval bases, the exchanges aren’t as sprawling but still often have the feel of big-box retail. While hours at those stores vary, most open at 9 a.m. close by 9 p.m.

The Navy’s minimarts at the Norfolk base currently start selling liquor as early as 6 a.m. That’s four hours earlier than people can buy at Virginia’s state-run ABC stores off-base that are typically open from from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.

While limiting overnight liquor sales hardly seems like a major impediment to bad behavior, it does make binge drinking somewhat more difficult. (Amusingly, I actually find the 10 am opening of the Virginia ABC stores a mild nuisance, in that I tend to make shopping runs early in the morning to beat the crowds. But, even at 10 am, I’m generally the only customer in the store buying for deferred use. While I’m looking for interesting new bourbons to try, the others are mostly buying single serving bottles such as one finds aboard airplanes.)

Given that most sailors are very young, it’s a smart move, especially against this backdrop:

The effort follows a Pentagon report, released in May, that estimates as many as 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted last year.

Alcohol is often involved. In a survey, 55 percent of Navy women said they or the offender had consumed alcohol before unwanted sexual contact.

I would not have guessed this, either:

In the 2012 fiscal year, the Navy reported $91.9 million in distilled spirits sales, compared with $39.3 million in wine and $62.3 million in beer. The Navy uses 70 percent of the profits from its sales of alcoholic and non-alcoholic products to support morale, welfare and recreation programs.

Given that spirits tend to be much cheaper on a per drink basis than wine or even beer, that’s a lot of booze.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pharoah Narim says:

    At least one Service is attempting to address the primary center of gravity of sexual assault. The other 3 should swiftly follow suit.

  2. Tyrell says:

    Still too early – noon would be better.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Tyrell: The point, I think, is to make it harder to buy booze in the wee hours before work. Most sailors are going to be on the job by 9. Moving it to noon just punishes people like me, making a liquor run in conjunction with other errands, in the early morning hours.

  4. Peter says:

    Until now I didn’t know that the military sold alcohol at all.

  5. DC Loser says:

    They can still drive off-base and get beer and wine at markets and 7-11s that open 24 hours.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    This just means that some people will have to stay at the bar a few minutes longer.

    Jeez, apparently most base exchanges are open from 9am to 9pm, I doubt that very many people are inconvenienced by having to wait until 9am to get their vodka, gin, vermouth, bourbon, scotch, malt liquor, or ‘fortified’ wine.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @al-Ameda: Again, I don’t think the point is to deter early risers from starting their day with a pick-me-up. Rather, it’s to make it harder for people who have been drinking all night to keep drinking.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Sorry, Dr. Joyner. Because a very small percentage can’t act responsibly, you and everyone else must be deprived of your options in the name of “social costs.” You now are in the same group as most gun owners, most antihistamine buyers, most people in regards to health insurance, most air travelers…

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: While I’ll be an employee of the Department of Navy in a few days, I won’t have Exchange privileges, so this doesn’t impact me personally. And, so far as I’m aware, the Virginia ABC stores open at 10 rather than earlier because they’re state-owned and face no in-state competition, not because they’re trying to curtail sales to drunks.

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Joyner: My apologies for lumping you into the group, but the point remains the same: if the “social cost” is considered high enough, then all must be deprived of their privileges.

  11. RGardner says:

    Sorry, I call BS on the commentary from those that do not currently or have never been in a military liquor store. Somehow you think the only patrons are young sailors and soldiers. I’m retired military living near the largest Army base on the West Coast, and am occasionally at the Class VI (Army/AF term for liquor store, Navy has no special name) as it opens at 9AM as part of my morning shopping circuit: Class VI (liquor store), BX/PX (Department Store) and Commissary (grocery store – last due to frozen goods) before the bad afternoon traffic. At 9AM it is mostly retired military, or military spouses. It is much busier 11-12:30 where I see more senior enlisted and officers (I’ve seen Generals) on their lunch break doing their shopping. And some junior enlisted. From 3:30-5:30 the place is crowded with all registers going (and I try to avoid it particularly on Friday), but those supporting a noon opening want to force everyone into dropping by after work. How would you like to be limited to absurd rules, worse than the VA ABC stores?

    It isn’t clear from the article of beer and wine sales are included, but the closing paragraph implies that they are. So if mini-marts are prohibited from beer sales then you basically have a major inconvenience for most – a travel to the sole liquor store that may not even be on their base, or is a 5 mile drive (for someone without a car). To use Ft Lewis as an example, over half of the soldiers in barracks are on North Fort with no Class VI (along with half the family housing), 4 miles from the liquor store just to get a 6-pack of beer? But in San Diego (NAVSTA 32nd St), a Sailor can just walk across the street (1 mile at most) to the local 7-11 or gas station and get a pint of whiskey at 6AM (but not at NAS Fallon NV ~30 miles from civilization). And at many smaller Navy bases the mini-mart is the only liquor store (Kitsap Bangor for example). This one-size fits all rule is silly as base’s geography varies, and VA with its antiquated state stores is not a good example.

    Lastly, the Exchanges boast how much their profits support MWR. The dirty secret is most of these profits come from alcohol and gasoline sales. Most Main Exchanges break even. Expect Child Care Centers and Gyms to close, so someone hates children and fitness (being snarky here about unintended consequences).

    As for 6AM, there is something to that. I once fielded a call from the manager of the mini-mart concerned about one of my Sailors (E-6) who was buying a pint every morning on the way into work. Turns out there was a problem there. But you’d never get that call from a liquor store off the base. BTW, I remember (barely) when the BOQ vending machines had beer in them.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @RGardner: My understanding from the article is that only spirits, not wine and beer, would be removed from the shopettes. But, yes, in military stores as with civilian, the people shopping early in the morning tend to be retirees and others who both lack the need to be at work at 9 am and wish to avoid the rush.

  13. Davebo says:

    So if you work nights as I often did getting off at 7:00AM a drink after work is now out of the question?

  14. 11B40 says:


    I heard that almost all the mythological 26,000 “sexual assault” victims had had breakfast before they were “attacked” so maybe it’s time the Navy restricts breakfasting and thus end the greatest epidemic in the history of history. I mean, it’s not like the Navy operates on a 24-hour a day basis now is it ?

  15. Tillman says:

    Given that NC state ABC stores don’t open until 11 am here, I’m hard-pressed to sympathize.

  16. Kolohe says:

    ” Class VI (Army/AF term for liquor store, Navy has no special name) ”

    Package store is the Navy / Marine Corps version.

  17. merl says:

    @RGardner: I remember the beer vending machines too right in our barracks.