In two reports this year, the John Locke Foundation has made the case for modernizing and adopting a license model for liquor sales in North Carolina. That’s the kind of model North Carolina already has for beer and wine.

Our top three recommendations for this change are these:

  1. Dissolve the ABC boards and sell the ABC stores. Government should not control the market of a legal product. North Carolina’s State Constitution states that “monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.” Retail sales of liquor, like beer and wine, should be conducted by private businesses licensed by the state.
  2. Divest the state of the ABC warehouse. Warehousing and distributing should be conducted by private businesses, as done in hosts of other legal industries.
  3. Free distillers from the ABC Commission dictating an approved products list and statewide prices. Government should not arbitrarily dictate choices and prices to private retailers or prevent them from taking a chance on new products.

My research brief shows that there is actually legislation being considered that would accomplish these things. Among other things, House Bill 971 would:

  • Sell off the state liquor warehouse
  • Get rid of local ABC boards
  • Sell off local ABC stores (proceeds to go to local public schools)
  • Stop the practice of the ABC Commission setting liquor prices

For more information about what HB 971 would do, go here.

A fourth recommendation

Incidentally, our fourth recommendation is:

Remove any anticompetitive restrictions and areas of overregulation in rules governing the alcohol industry. State regulations should be light and sensible and not devolve into red tape and arbitrary restrictions. A good indicator of the latter is when other states’ regulators allow certain activities that North Carolina forbids.

That recommendation is also being addressed, first by the signing of HB 363 into law giving craft breweries more freedom to self-distribute, and now by HB 378, which would relax several restrictions against distilleries.