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Ask SAM: Why is liquor sold the way it is in North Carolina?

Ask SAM: Why is liquor sold the way it is in North Carolina?

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Q: I was wondering: Is there a movement to get rid of the ABC store system? I was shocked after moving to North Carolina a few years ago to find that we were forced to shop at government-run stores. Who do I need to vote for so I can buy liquor at Costco?

— T.S.

To-go cocktails were legalized during the pandemic. Interestingly, it seems that these changes are here to stay. Source by: Stringr

Answer: Today is the 88th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, so in honor of that occasion we’ll look at alcohol sales in North Carolina. Prohibition lasted from Jan. 17, 1920, to Dec. 5, 1933, when the 21st amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

Alcohol sales are controlled by the state of North Carolina under N.C. General Statute 18B. Here is a short history of alcohol sales from the ABC Commission of North Carolina, the board that oversees alcohol sales. The commission is part of the N.C. Department of Public Safety and reports directly to the governor.

In 1935, the N.C. Legislature authorized Gov. John C.B. Ehringhaus to appoint a commission to study how alcohol sales would be handled in the state.

After looking at what other states were doing, the commission recommended to the General Assembly in 1937 that a monopoly system would be the best and it was enacted.

“The Control Act provided for the establishment of a State Board of Control consisting of a chairman and two associate members appointed by the governor,” according to, the website of the ABC Commission of N.C.

There are 17 states where alcohol sales are controlled by the state.

According to the N.C. Association of ABC Boards local ABC boards run all local ABC stores. There 168 local boards and 432 ABC stores in North Carolina. Around here that’s the Triad Municipal ABC Board. The state doesn’t own or run any ABC stores.

Here is how the money was distributed in fiscal year 2017.

Local ABC boards distributed $421,839,962 as follows:

County-City Distributions – $74,503,732;

State Taxes – $306,323,454;

Local Alcohol Education/Treatment – $12,171,893;

Local Law Enforcement – $8,360,935;

Rehabilitation Services – $4,769,055;

Operation of ABC Commission and Warehouse Distribution Center – $15,710,893.

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Here’s what was distributed locally between July 2017 and June 2018, according to the Triad Munici9pal ABC Board:

City of Winston-Salem $2,349,250

County of Forsyth $783,084

Clemmons $373,816

Kernersville $496,165

Bermuda Run $136,998

Lewisville $155,073

Oak Ridge $145,115

Yadkinville $109,235

State of North Carolina $10,199,905

Alcohol Rehabilitation $135,114

NC Department of Human Resources $6,758

Alcohol sales are a revenue producer for the state and local governments, and that is often the main reason cited for keeping the status quo.

Liquor can only be sold in communities that have held a referendum to approve the sale of alcohol.

Local ABC boards determine where stores will go, which limits the number of stores; they don’t conduct advertising or promotions; they set the hours and days of operations and keep ABC stores away from churches and schools.

Over the years, there have been talks about privatizing liquor sales. In 2020, a proposal to privatize sales never made it to a vote.

On the pro-privatization side, if liquor sales were private, there would be many more places selling liquor including grocery stores, drug stores, and anywhere that sells been and wine. They could be open longer, advertise and promote their products more. Liquor stores could also be open on Sundays.

If you want to support privatization, contact your local representatives and state senators.

liquor #generic



Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101


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