News: Quick Takes

N.C. ABC stores remain open throughout state; liquor delivery not an option

N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control stores remain open throughout the state, although many staff members within the ABC system are working from home.

The stores have established new protocols to minimize direct contact between the public and staff working on site, Jeff Strickland, ABC spokesman, said in an email.

“Our goal is to protect the safety and well-being of our staff and the public, while ensuring we can still meet the needs of the public,” he said. “We do not believe that service to the public will be diminished from our efforts.” 

The ABC, he said, continues to follow guidance from the governor, Office of State Human Resources, and Department of Health and Human Services.

The ABC Commission is separate from the more than 400 stores, which are managed by 170 independent boards around the state. The boards would decide whether to close or adjust their hours or operations, Strickland said.

“At this time, the ABC Commission is not aware of any ABC boards that have closed their stores or plan to.” 

North Carolina residents can’t order spirits online, nor have them delivered, but people can order beer and wine for delivery if the entity performing the delivery has the appropriate permit. The General Assembly would have to change state law for liquor delivery, and that won’t happen anytime soon.

Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah ban all alcohol shipments to consumers, the Consumer Choice Center says in a news release. Only Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Hampshire allow consumers to buy alcohol online and have it shipped to their residences.

“Social distancing is here and millions of people are staying home to avoid spreading coronavirus,” says Yaël Ossowski, Consumer Choice Center deputy director.

“But if you’re unlucky enough to live in a state with strict alcohol laws, you won’t be able to ship a bottle of wine, a six-pack, or your favorite bourbon to your address. And that’s beyond ridiculous.

“Bans on shipping alcohol are leftover policies from Prohibition that deprive us of choice. These bans will only exacerbate the economic damage caused by coronavirus. In the 21st century, we should no longer have antiquated alcohol laws that restrict our choices, reduce commerce, and treat adults more like children.” Ossowski says.

North Carolina presents a unique case. It’s one of 17 control states — state-run systems — but the only state with a system of independent boards and local control, which dates to the late 1930s.

Residents, Ossowski says, are becoming increasingly aware of North Carolina’s paternalistic laws surrounding alcohol. 

“We can easily have food and groceries delivered, but those options are slim when it comes to alcoholic beverages,” he said in an email. “Due to strict N.C. alcohol laws, online merchants such as Amazon can’t stock your favorite wines, craft beers or liquors unless they follow a very strict line of regulations. No one can receive an alcohol shipment from out of state unless they’re a licensed wholesaler. Wineries looking to ship bottles must be located in state and can’t send you more than two cases per month. Breweries and distilleries face the same restrictions. At least until we change these regulations, North Carolina will remain behind when it comes to innovation and alcohol.”