What does "ABC" stand for?

By statute, “ABC” means Alcoholic Beverage Control.

What makes North Carolina a "control state"?

After Prohibition was repealed, states were permitted to develop their own alcohol systems. North Carolina is unique as it allowed communities to vote to establish local ABC boards for the sale of liquor in their communities, with liquor profits distributed back to those communities, thereby reducing the need to increase local property taxes.

Where does the money from North Carolina liquor sales go?

For fiscal year ending 2021, local ABC boards distributed $616,884,452 as follows:  County-City Distributions – $123,750,354; State Taxes – $438,773,299; Local Alcohol Education/Treatment – $15,530,299; Local Law Enforcement – $12,311,258; Rehabilitation Services – $3,983,453; Department of Health & Human Services – $1,691,411; Operation of ABC Commission and Warehouse Distribution Center – $20,844,378.

Why do we need to control liquor? 

Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity and liquor is different from beer or wine. Alcohol can be an addictive product and abused by some. A control system limits the physical and social damage that can be caused by the misuse of liquor and reduces the costs borne by citizens that result from abusive or irresponsible consumption of liquor.

How does North Carolina compare with other states?

Of the 50 states, North Carolina ranks 44th lowest in consumption per capita and 7th highest in revenue per capita. By comparison, South Carolina, a licensed state, ranks 27th in consumption and 38th in revenue. NC’s ABC system accomplishes both revenue and public health, welfare, and safety objectives.

Who owns the ABC stores?

ABC boards are local independent subdivisions of this State. ABC boards either own or lease all of the ABC store locations. The 168 local ABC boards operate 432 stores statewide and employ over 2,870 people.

Is the state of North Carolina in the liquor business? 

The State does not own any liquor as NC operates under a bailment system. Local ABC boards order products from suppliers that are shipped to the state’s warehouse then distributed locally. No State funds are spent to distribute or sell liquor. The state and local operation of the ABC system is receipt supported.

What is the mission of local ABC boards?

By statute, the mission of local ABC boards and their employees shall be to serve their localities responsibly by controlling the sale of liquor and promoting customer-friendly, modern, and efficient stores.

What does the NC General Assembly Program Evaluation Division (PED) say?

The PED conducted a study of the State’s ABC system. The PED examined privatization, but it did not recommend privatization, noting that control states receive more revenue than license or open states. The PED report compared NC’s local ABC system to 12 license or open states that limit sales of spirits to privately owned package stores and found that NC had the fewest retail outlets (except for Delaware), received the most public revenue per gallon sold, and had the lowest per capita consumption.

How will my community be financially impacted if North Carolina's ABC system is privatized? 

Profits from the sale of liquor would go to private owners rather than distributed to cities and counties across the State, resulting in the need for local governments to either increase taxes or decrease services. Local ABC boards would not be able to provide local law enforcement; local ABC boards currently fund law enforcement with $8.4 million/year.  Local ABC boards would not be able to provide funds for local alcohol education and treatment in their communities; local ABC boards currently fund these programs with $12.3 million/year.  Greater access and marketing, combined with a profit motive, would result in greater consumption which results in greater harm and greater cost to society. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine reported to the General Assembly that the consequences of underage drinking alone cost $1.2 billion in 2005.

How would the marketplace change with privatization? 

Privatization will result in a marked increase in the number of outlets, longer hours of sale, greater advertising, and more promotion and significantly more consumption. Thousands of businesses sell beer and wine at retail in North Carolina, including pharmacies and convenience stores, and they could be permitted to sell liquor.

Who drinks alcohol?

80% of adult Americans either do not drink alcohol or have 3 or fewer drinks per week, while 5% of adult Americans are heavy drinkers and 15% are moderate drinkers (CDC Health Behaviors of Adults). The expanded availability of liquor in a privatized system would convenience heavy and problem drinkers the most, but the increased social and law enforcement costs are borne by all taxpayers.

What about other states that have implemented privatization?

The last three states that have implemented privatization (Washington in 2011, Iowa in 1987 and West Virginia in 1991) have all seen higher consumer prices, less choice, and less revenue for the government. Washington State consumers are now faced with some of the highest liquor prices in the nation and also with fewer selections; access to liquor has increased with the number of retail outlets increasing from 328 to over 1400 and with an increase from 73 to 140 hours of potential alcohol sales per week.

Why is liquor treated differently?

Alcohol is the most harmful drug, according to The Lancet (November 6, 2010) which is the preeminent medical journal for Great Britain.  Liquor is not an ordinary commodity but requires attention and regulation by the government in the interest of the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Alcohol has addictive properties and potentially harmful effects on those who consume it and others, so its sale should be regulated in a control system. Liquor is a materially different product than beer and wine primarily due to its higher alcohol content.  Almost half of the states have at least some form of law that regulates liquor off-premises availability more strictly than other forms of alcohol. The North American Interfraternity Conference announced in September 2018 that it banned alcohol products above 15% alcohol by volume at fraternity facilities and events; this ban is targeted at liquor.

How do local ABC boards, and our State's ABC system, control the sale of liquor?

Local ABC boards control the sale of liquor by, among other things: recognizing that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity and that liquor is a different product than beer or wine; determining where there is a need for a retail outlet, maintaining stores only where there is such a need and by locating stores in appropriate areas and away from churches and schools; conducting sales during reasonable hours; engaging in responsible sales; not promoting or advertising the sale of spirits; maintaining a uniform price of spirits throughout the State without discounted “loss leaders”; conducting business in a public, transparent and accountable way; providing for alcohol law enforcement, either through its own local ABC board law enforcement officers (there are about 60 in the State) or by contracting with local law enforcement or the State’s ALE; and ensuring that all tax revenue is collected.

Do ABC board members receive compensation?

A local ABC board member is limited by statute to receiving $150.00 per board meeting unless otherwise approved by its appointing authority.

What about ABC general manager's salaries? 

A local ABC board’s general manager’s salary is limited by statute to not exceed the salary set by statute for the clerk of court of the county in which the local ABC board’s appointing authority was incorporated unless otherwise approved by its appointing authority. Employees of the Board cannot receive salaries greater than those of the general manager for that Board.

Who controls the price of liquor in North Carolina?

The supplier of liquor sets the price at which it will sell the product. The NC ABC Commission then sets the retail price based on a statutory formula. The State can reduce the excise taxes on liquor, but suppliers may not reduce their prices accordingly.

How can I find out what liquor products are available for sale in North Carolina?

The NC ABC Commission’s website (https://abc.nc.gov/Pricing/PriceList) publishes a quarterly list of regularly available products and retail prices. If your local ABC board does not carry an item on the quarterly price list, contact your local ABC board and ask them to carry the product for you.

What about special-order products?

In addition to the quarterly list of regular products, there are a number of products that can be special ordered.  The NC ABC Commission’s website (https://abc.nc.gov/Pricing/SpecialItems) publishes a list of special-order items. To order one of these products, contact a local ABC store and ask about the special-order process.

How many liquor products does North Carolina sell and how does that compare with states?

In 2018, North Carolina’s local ABC boards sold 4,675 different liquor products, more than some other control states:  Virginia 4,161, West Virginia 2,707, and Alabama 4,076.

What do Americans think about alcohol policies and priories?  

A national survey by the Center for Alcohol Policy published in September 2017 found that Americans agree the following health and safety issues are the top priority: reducing drunk driving (77%), protecting health and safety (70%) and reducing underage drinking (62%), over economic issues such as allowing more businesses to sell alcohol (19%), lowering prices for alcohol (22%) or giving consumers more choices (28%).

What revenue would be realized from a sale of the ABC system? 

ABC stores are owned or leased by local ABC boards which are local independent subdivisions of this State. State and local governments in North Carolina do not own the ABC stores. Washington State privatized in 2011 and received only $30.75 million from auctioning off the rights to apply for retail spirits permits at 167 stores.