Talk to almost any North Carolinian on the street under the age of 65, no matter their political leaning, and they are likely to agree that there should be an unequivocal end to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (also known as the ABC system, or simply the ABC). Most North Carolinians believe all alcoholic beverages, whether wine, beer, or liquor, should be sold in grocery stores and privately owned establishments, as they are in at least 33 other states in the U.S.
North Carolina began prohibition against alcoholic beverages as early as 1908, some 11 years before the U.S. government passed the 18th Amendment. Once that amendment was eventually undone via the 21st Amendment in 1933, North Carolina’s Democrats worked tirelessly to set up a monopoly over alcoholic beverages with the help of the Anti-Saloon League, terroristic Red Shirts, and the KKK.
By 1935, North Carolina created the ABC system, which has continued to monopolize and restrict the production, warehousing, distribution, and sales of all alcoholic beverages in the state. These draconian controls have prevented North Carolina alcohol producers from expanding their market to other states, exasperated waste, profited a privileged few at the expense of the taxpayer, and increased costs for everyone with little to no actual benefit.
Until recently, the polls for ending the NC ABC system were extremely sparse. These limitations created hesitation in making political headway against the outdated and deficient ABC system.
But a recent statewide survey conducted by market researchers at Cygnal and sponsored by the John Locke Foundation shows some serious promise for leading political change in regard to North Carolina’s ABC system. This survey was conducted from May 21 through May 23, 2023.
Among the 610 participants in the survey, 75.2% (459) were aware of the ABC system’s activities and 3.1% (19) were unsure. When participants were asked if they would support or oppose the privatization of liquor sales in North Carolina, a plurality 44.2% (270) said they would support privatization, another 16% (97) said they would neither support nor oppose, and 18.4% (112) were unsure. Only 12.6% (77) said they would strongly oppose the privatization of liquor sales in North Carolina.
The results of this statewide survey indicate that by a nearly 2:1 margin, North Carolinians overwhelmingly support the privatization of liquor sales in North Carolina.
This suggests that public opinion supports political change in North Carolina, and we can expect serious changes to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in the upcoming years. There are currently several bills in the North Carolina House and Senate, and there have been some new laws and regulations passed over the last couple of years. Some of the recent changes have created progress with liquor sales at distilleries, happy hour laws, Sunday brunch laws, and social districts that allow for open containers.
Some changes being proposed begin with selling liquor in grocery stores and private shops where most North Carolinians will find convenience and cost savings. Such changes are likely to inspire ending the monopolized warehousing and distribution of liquor in the state, as the ABC currently holds exclusive control. Once the market gains momentum and responsible care of liquor sales in the state, it is likely that there will be growing investment and demand for removing production limitations on wine, beer, and liquor in North Carolina.
As soon as the state ABC system relinquishes its grip on the market, North Carolinians will benefit with greater convenience, production, lower costs, competitive market representation, and reduced waste, all while encouraging market growth in other related industries.