#ncga: ABC needs to G-O.

biggovtAs I said earlier, I spent some time over the holiday weekend in the North Carolina mountains.  I hit a few social functions that included some friends who reside in the Charlotte area, as well as in South Carolina.   Amidst the usual holiday get-together banter, I learned something interesting:  South Carolina isn’t subjected to the state-owned and controlled liquor store monopoly we are.  You can actually choose from multiple privately-owned retailers in The Palmetto State for purchasing your adult beverages. 

North Carolina’s ABC system prides itself on operating without any state money.   But nearly a century after Prohibition, and after most blue laws and dry counties are a thing of the past, why is it still here? 

North Carolina is ONE of NINETEEN states that has state-run liquor stores.  South Carolina and Tennessee are not part of that NINETEEN.  (Virginia IS.)

There are all kinds of regional and local ABC boards packed with political cronies — allied with whomever is in charge in Raleigh at the time — making nice salaries.  There are all kinds of politically-connected folks — or relatives of said politically-connected folks — working in the stores.  It’s a vehicle for paying off cronies who help you stay in office.  It’s also a subtle, additional tool for bleeding the taxpayers.

In the South Carolina liquor stores, you can purchase your favorite spirits at a discount — sometimes up to 50% per bottle — of what you’ll be charged in a North Carolina ABC store.  And why not?  The ABC system has a lot of political cronies to pay.  Jones Street has a burgeoning bureaucracy to fund.  And don’t forget all of those city councillors  and sheriffs and county commissioners with their hands perpetually held out.  

In South Carolina, you get the better pricing because of competition.  Don’t like the pricing at one place?  Go down the street.  In North Carolina, your only choice is the State of North Carolina. 

We’re also learning of cases where the growing ABC bureaucracy is putting pressure on small businesses out there who don’t even sell liquor.  Take this story from earlier this year: abc

[…] The impact of the last state budget hit R.L. Bass’s mailbox a few months back.

Bass – who has owned a small country store in Nash County for 57 years – was reviewing his annual renewal notice from the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. He said he was surprised to learn that the cost of selling beer had doubled from $200 to $400.

The paperwork didn’t explain the change, and Bass said calls to the ABC Commission and the governor’s office haven’t yielded answers. “Nobody up there will tell you anything,” he said.

Bass said his beer sales don’t justify the higher fee. “It’ll take me four months out of the year, selling beer out of this one little cooler, to make enough money just to pay the tax,” he said.

The country store owner’s confusion highlights the complicated and fast-moving legislative process that crafts the state budget each year.

[…]Wayne Land, who owns 15 L&L Food Stores in Nash and Edgecombe counties, said convenience store operators shouldn’t foot the cost of ALE investigations.

“It’s not fair to put it on the retailers, where there’s very small cost to the ALE,” Land said, adding that bars and nightclubs are “where the problems come in.”

The ABC permit change got little media attention in a year when teacher pay raises dominated the budget headlines. So while it was on the books for more than a year before businesses had to pay, Bass said he and other retailers heard nothing about it.

Land – who says he owed an extra $9,000 this April for his multiple stores – said he didn’t factor the change into his annual budget because he got no notice from the ABC Commission. He said his 165 employees could be the eventual losers as he’ll have less money to offer raises.ncleg

[…] Changes in fees and taxes typically don’t take effect until months afterward, when the long hearings and heated legislative debates are a distant memory.

Despite the impact to his bottom line, Land said he doesn’t plan to lobby legislators to cut retailers a break in this year’s budget.

“You’re wasting your time,” he said.

Let this go.  Tax liquor the same way you already tax tobacco and other retail goods.  THIS would be a great place to demonstrate the desire of “the conservative revolution” to take power away from the government and put it back into the private sector.

10 thoughts on “#ncga: ABC needs to G-O.

  1. Agreed.

    And while we’re at it, let’s do away with the arbitrary time of noon on Sundays legal drinking age adults are allowed to purchase alcohol – see NCGS 18B-1004(c). If we can buy alcohol at 7 a.m. every other day of the week, why not 7 a.m. on Sunday?

    1. Absolutely agree. ABC stores not only give us less value, less product, and higher prices… but there is no reason for this to even be a thing. That’s not what government is for.

      I also made the apparently dangerous mistake of trying to do some grocery shopping on a recent late Sunday morning… I think I was hitting the check-out line around 1130am or so…. had to put the six-pack of beer aside – thanks NC. 🙁

    1. Adam,

      I spoke with Rev. Creech today after reading your comment. I wanted to understand the primary objection CAL would have to lowering the purchase time on Sundays as well as their objections in general to Sunday sales. I have to thank him for taking my call without any prior notice and never having spoken to him before. He said the CAL’s primary purpose is protecting the public from the dangers associated with alcohol. He couldn’t specifically comment on CAL’s position on making alcohol available on Sunday at the same time as every other day of the week without reviewing proposed legislation, but, in general, said CAL would likely be opposed to any changes to the current alcohol laws in NC.

      He recommended I read the paper linked below he co-authored a few years on the issue of privatizaion. I haven’t yet had a chance to read, but wanted to pass along to DH readers to provide an alternative perspective.


      1. I am a Christ-follower and probably 9 times out of 10, I support the Family Policy Council. However, I differ from them and folks like Rev. Creech on this issue. Per the comment above, Rev. Creech said the CAL’s “primary purpose is protecting the public from the dangers associated with alcohol.” I’m sure they want to protect the public (particularly kids) from indecent activities, but the state doesn’t run Uptown Cabaret or Pure Gold. I’m sure they want to keep people from smoking, but the state doesn’t have tobacco-products-only stores. I’m sure they want to keep folks from gambling, but the state still allows private parties to have beach bingo, “charity” raffles, etc. I don’t want my government selling booze, smokes, lap dances, or lottery tickets.

  2. I’ve advocated for many years to get rid of the ABC scam. The state shouldn’t be in the retail sales business in the first place. They say they operate with no state money. That’s a half truth since they are taking money out of the hands of the citizens. Whether it’s taken by the NC Dept of Revenue or taken by an agency of the state there is no difference. It’s still taken.

    Turn liquor sales over to businesses already in the retail trade like grocery stores, convenient marts, etc and let the citizens keep the money they pay to support an unnecessary government agency loaded with cronies and corruption.

    I’ve lived in states where liquor was available in every convenient mart and grocery store. It’s much cheaper and the issues are no more than a state with an ABC scam.

    It saves in other ways as well. Less fuel is burned since you don’t have to drive to the ABC store. The net tax revenue increases since no revenue is being skimmed off the top to run a bureaucracy. More money stays in the hands of those who earn it. A win all the way around.

    The only losers are the ones that should lose – crony bureaucrats.

    1. State shouldn’t be in the gambling business, either. Its not like much of the proceeds go to education.

  3. One positive to closing the ABC Stores down is that by closing them down it would cause a drop in illegal drug use.

    It works like this.

    You go into the ABC Store to buy some liquor but you get depressed when you notice how bland, bare and unattractive the store is. And then you have to deal with the clerk who may or may not be comatose. This depressing atmosphere ultimately makes you realize you need something stronger so you leave the store and go looking for a dealer to give you something stronger than alcohol. I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut that illegal drugs sales are many, many times higher than ABC Store sales. And dope sales don’t even go through a local board.

    However, if we are going to keep the ABC Stores and their local boards we need to combine them with the County Boards of Education. Combine the local ABC Board with the local County School Board. Retain all the employees and then the local superintendent can hire 37 more secretaries to merge the two systems plus 17 new hires to complain to the General Assembly about budget cuts.

    But in the end it all comes down to what Rev. Barber thinketh.

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