No more late-night alcohol sales at AAFES stores, starting Jan. 1

by Tommy Grant

Exchange-run stores on Army and Air Force installations will stop late-night alcohol sales, effective Jan. 1, in a move designed to help prevent suicides.

Alcohol will no longer be sold at Army & Air Force Exchange Service outlets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Shop hours vary by base and type of store.

The change will affect 161 shops worldwide, including Express stores, Class Six stores and main exchange stores. Those that sell booze overnight comprise about a quarter of AAFES stores that offer packaged alcohol and spirits, AAFES spokeswoman Marisa Conner said in an email.

Feedback about the decision has been “nominal,” Conner said. Alcohol sales between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at those 161 stores accounted for less than 1% of total alcohol sales last year, she said.

The move aligns Army and Air Force stores with the policies of other military exchange systems, Conner said.

Navy and Marine Corps exchanges stopped selling alcohol in any of their exchange outlets after 10 p.m. in 2013. Navy policy allows sales of alcohol in exchange outlets from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., while Marine Corps exchanges sell it from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. A limited number of military commissaries sell beer and wine, but commissaries are typically not open late.

The decision also follows the recommendations of a February report by the Department of Defense’s Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee.

The panel cited research that suggests that limiting when alcohol can be sold reduces heavy drinking and other adverse outcomes associated with alcohol misuse. Cutting those hours may also offer a strategy for reducing overall alcohol consumption, especially among younger personnel who live in military housing, the committee reported.

Nearly 500 troops died by suicide in 2022, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual suicide report released in October. While fewer people died, the active duty suicide rate rose by 3%, data showed.

Eighteen percent of service members who died by suicide had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, the Pentagon found in 2021. The committee also cited research showing that, of suicides in the American public where toxicology data was available, about 1 in 3 people were acutely intoxicated at their death.

Some other recommendations by the committee included banning the promotion of alcohol on Defense Department property; increasing the price of alcohol; and funding safe transportation programs for service members living on base.

Some online commenters have speculated that the ban of overnight sales of alcohol might result in other problems.

“Now instead of walking five minutes to the shopette for a beer run, Joe is gonna hop in his V6 Camaro and drive to the liquor store off post and get a DUI,” Reddit user BabyBackFriedFish wrote Nov. 30.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families.” She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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