We asked local state legislators: Do you support ABC reform?
N.C. ABC officials say the state's liquor shortage stems from a number of issues, and some citizens say the system should be privatized. We asked lawmakers what they think.
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In the face of liquor shortages related to how N.C. sells spirits, what do lawmakers think of ABC reform?
You might have read in our e-pages lately that there’s a liquor shortage in North Carolina, which the N.C. ABC Commission says stems from a number of supply issues, a new liquor ordering vendor and higher-than-usual demand.
Some readers have suggested the system be privatized. The legislature examined changing the way liquor is sold in 2019 but took no action.
In light of the recent shortages, we put the question to our elected representatives in Raleigh. The Ledger reached out to all 17 state representatives and senators from Mecklenburg County. We heard back from three and are happy to share their replies to the question: “Do you support reform, and if so, what kind of reform?”
Rep. Terry Brown (Democrat, District 92):
I kind of have a bird’s eye view of being so close to South Carolina border down here and visiting their stores and seeing how North Carolina ABC stores work and talk with my colleagues in the legislature here, and I certainly think that we can modernize, and think about what we can do differently.
I don't think we’re ever going to get to the point in North Carolina where you're going to be able to walk into a Harris Teeter and buy a handle of Jack Daniels, like you are in several other states, but I definitely would support some type of reforms where we could have a system where we're still operating under the ABC board system, but we operate with certain limited licensures for boutique liquor stores that are specialized and getting rare products that are hard to find or specialize in certain different specialties that will help alleviate some of the burden while not taking away from our ABC stores.
Rep. Mary Belk (Democrat, District 88):
I have supported the wholesale and distilleries for beer and wine, and especially for our craft beers. I co-sponsored some of those bills because I feel like we need to be open to entrepreneurs, we need to be open to small businesses that say, 'hey we want to come in here,' in the state that promotes tourism and has a way for people to come in to visit North Carolina and spend their monies. So, I have supported opening that up.
Rep. Wesley Harris (Democrat, District 105):
Harris told us that the liquor shortage can’t be fixed with an individual policy decision and that the shortage is happening everywhere and is all because of the pandemic. He said he supports liberalizing liquor legislation.
We appreciate the replies from Reps. Brown, Belk and Harris.
We did not hear back from Reps. John Autry, John Bradford, Becky Carney, Carla Cunningham, Rachel Hunt, Brandon Lofton or Nasif Majeed. We also had no reply from Sens. Jeff Jackson, Natasha Marcus, Mujtaba Mohammed, DeAndrea Salvador or Joyce Waddell. Reps. Kelly Alexander and Carolyn Logan replied to us but we were unable to schedule an interview.
If any of them care to share their thoughts, we are all ears.
—Responses compiled by Ledger contributor Lindsey Banks
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