Perdue considers privatizing ABC stores

(Wikimedia)

March 1, 2010 11:50:42 AM PST
A letter Monday from Governor Beverly Perdue shows she's listening to calls to privatize North Carolina's state run ABC liquor stores.

Perdue has asked for more information about the pros and cons of privatization from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which is hiring an outside group to estimate the value of the state's liquor sales system

North Carolina is the only state where local ABC boards sell spirits. The system began in the 1930s - shortly after the end of Prohibition. According to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission website, the state has 415 ABC stores statewide with total annual sales of more than $700 million.

Local boards have been scrutinized after news the Wilmington-area board administrator made more than $250,000 annually and a liquor company treated Mecklenburg County board officials to a fancy dinner. Critics of the system say it's antiquated and the state could make more money from liquor sales if it was privatized.

In a letter to General Assembly members Monday, Perdue said she wants to weigh factors like human costs such as whether the change would lead to more liquor consumption.

Perdue also said the state could privatize stores but not wholesale distribution.

"Either can be done independent of the other or both may be privatized together," wrote Perdue.

Perdue said once she's had a chance to look at the data, she plans to make recommendations to the legislature.

There are some things that she said are not negotiable.

"North Carolina will remain a 'control' state. If we opt to privatize any part of the ABC system, it will only do so through the sale of a concession for a limited period of time, which may be renewable," wrote Perdue.

And she has specific ideas about where the money would go.

"Any fees paid to the state from the sale of any part of the ABC system must be used to fund critical, long-term investments in our people and our state – not to fill current or near-term budget shortfalls," she wrote.

Perdue said if ABC boards and stores remain in existence, she wants tougher ethical standards for both.

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