Raleigh, N.C. (July 23, 2019) – The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) and North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) today reiterated joint support of an improved version of House Bill 971, also known as the Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control, filed by Representative Chuck McGrady as a continued effort to modernize the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) system. The bill has three additional primary sponsors, Rep. Jon Hardister, Rep. Jason Saine, and Rep. Pricey Harrison. The newest version of the bill was heard in the House ABC Committee today and shows that there is a path forward to fix the state’s broken ABC system while also generating additional revenue for state and local governments.
HB 971 aims to revamp the decades-long government management of the sale, storage, and distribution of distilled spirits in order to implement a more efficient and effective system. NCRMA President and General Counsel Andy Ellen and NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges are working to highlight the bill’s significance and call upon North Carolinians to take action to help #FreeTheSpirits.
“North Carolina remains an anomaly in how we operate the sale and distribution of distilled spirits – there is no other product that the state both regulates and sells. We want to modernize the ABC system to address the inefficiencies of our current government-operated monopoly, streamlining operations, fostering competition, and improving the marketplace for the consumer,” said NCRMA’s Ellen. “We support the approach in HB971 that takes a responsible path, one that will uphold public safety and tax collection while continuing support for existing programs and increasing local revenue opportunities.”
North Carolina is one of only eight states that still controls both the wholesale and retail sale of liquor. Furthermore, North Carolina is the only state in the country where local government has control over retail liquor sales. Whereas most states only have one ABC board, North Carolina has 170 independent authorities scattered throughout the state that determine how funds are allocated locally. This is a function that could be carried out by elected county commissioners and city council members that are already directly accountable to their constituents, opening an opportunity for an application process to thoughtfully allocate local tax dollars.
“The government must continue to play an important role in the oversight of our ABC system, but we also have a need for a more efficient and modern system,” said NCRLA’s Minges. “The new version of the bill shows that we can indeed transition to a better sales and distribution model that will still allow the ABC Commission to focus in on regulatory control while also benefitting North Carolina businesses and consumers.”
NCRLA and NCRMA believe North Carolina consumers and businesses would benefit from moving to a licensure system modeled on the way the state already permits beer and wine sales, as HB 971 proposes. Under the current ABC control system, consumer choice, options, and access are limited. Even as the state with the ninth largest population, North Carolina has the second lowest outlet density in the nation with only .58 ABC stores per 10,000 people. In addition, many North Carolinians have a desire to support local products, from produce to packaged goods to locally brewed beer, and there is an opportunity to improve access to spirits being produced by the state’s nearly 80 distilleries. Also, there are specialty spirits and craft brands that are simply not made available in North Carolina.
For North Carolina residents to learn more information and easily contact legislators in support of the Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control, visit www.freethespiritsnc.com or text FIXABC to 52886 to receive updates on the bill and ways to become involved.
Established in 1947, the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) works to advance and protect North Carolina’s $23 billion restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry. The association provides access to the resources and support restaurant and lodging professionals need to lead thriving businesses, while serving as conscientious, contributing members of an unparalleled industry. To learn more information about NCRLA or its membership opportunities and cost-saving benefits, please visit www.ncrla.org.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) is a nonprofit trade association organized in 1902 to improve the business climate for retailers in North Carolina. Over 115 years later, NCRMA remains the voice of the retail industry for North Carolina. NCRMA represents the interests of individual merchants before the General Assembly and serves as a vital link to state government. Its credibility lies in its longevity and commitment to serving the ever-changing needs of its members. The Association’s membership includes more than 25,000 stores from across the state whose business represents 75 percent of North Carolina’s retail sales volume. NCRMA serves both large and small retailers from multi-state chains to local “mom and pops” and all types of merchants including antique, apparel, art, automotive, book, carpet, department, drug, electronics, floral, furniture, grocery, hardware, jewelry, paint and variety stores. For more information, visit www.ncrma.org.
Mark Van Hook