News: Quick Takes

Lawmakers file bill that clears path toward privatizing liquor sales

A stack of bills from lawmakers looking to modernize the way North Carolina distributes and sells liquor is growing.

Another addition to the pile, House Bill 971, would reform the way spirits are stored and sold.

The Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control, filed Thursday, April 25, by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, basically clears a path for private liquor stores in North Carolina. The bill’s other primary sponsors are Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford; Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; and Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.

The outdated laws, McGrady and his co-sponsors say in a news release, fail to meet the demands of today’s consumers and constrain opportunities for growth.

“North Carolina would benefit much more from a ‘licensure system’ modeled on the way we currently sell beer and wine,” said McGrady, who co-chairs the ABC Committee in the N.C. House.

“This licensure model has been very successful in ensuring public safety and preserving local revenue streams — all while streamlining operations and enabling private-sector investment. And a recent report by the nonpartisan Program Evaluation Division reveals that many ABC boards are not only inefficient, but fail to produce the revenues one would expect from a monopoly — which is exactly what they are.”

North Carolina is the only state in which some 170 independent boards exert local control over liquor sales. Loosely operating under the auspices of N.C. ABC,  the political boards oversee the distribution, sale, and revenue from alcohol in cities and counties throughout the state. These boards distribute some money from alcohol sales to another set of politicians in respective communities, though there’s really no clear formula for that distribution or uniform targets for the money.

The funding has, in effect, become a sort of entitlement.

Other bills filed this session, including an omnibus measure, would remove limits on sales to customers visiting one of the nearly 60 craft distilleries in the state.The bills would authorize public colleges and universities to allow the sale of alcohol at stadiums, athletic facilities, and arenas on school property. The moves would allow distillers to serve mixed drinks, for brewers to more freely distribute their beer, and for communities to decide whether they want liquor sold on Sundays.

Says McGrady, “It’s time for North Carolina to turn the page on this antiquated system — I believe that our citizens and our businesses are ready to be treated like we live in the 21st century.”

The House ABC Committee on Tuesday, April 30, is scheduled to take up House Bill 99, which would establish Alcohol Law Enforcement as a separate division of the Department of Public Safety, and House Bill 536, ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform. H.B. 536 would make myriad revisions to N.C. ABC laws, including a provision to allow beer tastings at farmers markets and allow distillers to sell directly to consumers in other states.