WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The New Hanover Board of Commissioners on Monday passed a resolution opposing House Bill 971, which would privatize the sale of liquor and abolish the North Carolina ABC system. The commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines supporting the current system.
North Carolina is one of 17 states that controls liquor sales. It is the only control state where ABC boards are elected, and local governments receive profit.
“I’m definitely against privatizing,” said Jonathan Barfield, chairman of the New Hanover Board of Commissioners, in an interview prior to Monday’s vote. “Our ABC system here is doing a phenomenal job in our community for many years. I believe that every ABC system throughout our state is opposed to the bill as well.”
Other commissioners were in favor of privatizing liquor sales.
“Government should not hold a monopoly over anything related to retail sales," Commissioner Woody White said ahead of Monday’s vote. "Private enterprise is much more efficient and produces more return for taxpayers. Alcohol sales of beer and wine in North Carolina operates perfectly fine with an excise-sales tax model. Liquor sales should be treated the same.”
The vote Monday was to show New Hanover’s opposition to the bill. Nothing is finalized until it’s voted upon in the state General Assembly.
“We hear the argument that people would have cheaper liquor. That’s not the case,” says Marnina Queen, CEO of New Hanover ABC. “We look at Washington state that just privatized their sales, and their prices increased close to 15 percent.”
The current ABC system is set up so a certain percentage of liquor sales goes back into the local governments. Last year, New Hanover ABC gave back over $5.5 million to New Hanover County.
Queen fears that if the bills does get passed, the county will need to get that money from somewhere else, such as residents’ property taxes.
That money goes into supporting public education and public education campaigns such as preventing underage drinking, helping people dealing with alcoholism and police officer security in downtown Wilmington.
The county has eight stores that are run by the ABC board. However, if the bill is approved by the General Assembly, the county could see that number increase to 30 to 50 privately own stores, Queen says.
Those stores would be open from 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday and from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday.