Hank Bauer is the new chairman of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
He replaces A.D. Zander Guy Jr., who abruptly resigned in September. Terrance Merriweather, deputy commissioner, oversaw daily operations for the agency in the interim.
Bauer, a news release says, is former general manager at Empire Distributors, where he also served as the director of sales and on-premise director. He takes over during a turbulent time for the ABC, as the state warehouse struggles to get liquor into state-run stores, now highlighted by empty shelves and out-of-stock signs.
Lawmakers continue to investigate reasons for the problems as well as potential issues related to warehouse operator LB&B Associates. LB&B hasn’t responded to requests for comment from Carolina Journal.
Bauer was previously the North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia district manager for Boston Beer Co. and a district manager and sales representative for Blue Ridge Beverage. Bauer earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University.
“I am grateful to Governor Roy Cooper for this opportunity to lead the ABC Commission,” Bauer said. “I’m also excited to work with the great team of commission staff.”
Said Cooper, “Hank Bauer has over 30 years of valuable experience in the industry. He will be an asset to the ABC Commission, and I am grateful for his willingness to serve.”
In March, the ABC Commission voted unanimously to recommend the state award a new 10-year contract for warehouse services to LB&B, the target of an audit in 2018 that has, over previous years, cost the state about $13.5 million. The ABC concurred with the audit and promised to fix the myriad issues, including a focus on accountability and efficient delivery.
The agreement, the ABC says, includes a requirement of nearly error-free and on-time deliveries as well as increased delivery frequency to the state’s 171 local ABC boards. LB&B has operated the state warehouse system since 2003.
A new software system was implemented in early July and, says LB&B attorney Ben Thompson, customers are still learning to use it. Some local ABC boards are reluctant to use the new system at all, continuing to use the older system, which connects suppliers and customers with the warehouse.
North Carolina is one of 17 control states, but it’s the only one that employs local control through some 170 ABC boards around the state.