BLOWING ROCK — The Boone Alcoholic Beverage Control board and the Blowing Rock Town Council have passed resolutions in support of keeping the Boone and Blowing Rock liquor stores separate and controlled by the state.
Boone and Blowing Rock each have their own ABC board to oversee their ABC stores. Those boards, as required by state law, distribute a percentage of their sales to their local municipalities.
"North Carolina is unique as it allows 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," the Boone ABC Board resolution stated.
There are twin bills currently in the N.C. General Assembly, House Bill 91 and Senate Bill 87, that would make consolidated county ABC boards mandatory. Current law allows each N.C. county to have the option of separate municipal ABC boards or a consolidated county board.
Boone ABC Board member Charlie Wallin, who is also a Watauga County Commissioner, said on March 8 that the resolution will likely be presented to the Boone Town Council at one of its March meetings.
At a Blowing Rock Town Council meeting with legislators on Friday, March 8, 12-year Blowing Rock ABC Board member Susie Greene talked to N.C. General Assembly members Rep. Ray Russell (D-Boone) and Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) about how the two stores in Watauga work well.
"These two stores are top 20 in the state (in sales), typically in top 10 in terms of income," Greene said.
At a Boone Town Council meeting with the town's lobbyists on March 7, Boone Town Manager John Ward said that the town receives $525,000 annually from its ABC store. According to the Blowing Rock resolution passed March 5, at least $50,000 is brought into the town each year, with $6 million brought in over the last 15 years. Greene pointed out on March 8 to Ballard and Russell that doesn't include the percentage of the sales that goes to the state and county.
Those allocated revenues, by law, go to local alcohol education, local law enforcement rehabilitation efforts and to local municipalities.
Greene said if the two boards were to be merged by a state law, both towns would lose control of the money they bring in.
Ballard noted that Avery County has a consolidated ABC board and would be "fascinated" to know how that's gone for them.
Blowing Rock Councilman Doug Matheson said that counties that have consolidated their ABC boards have typically done so to help underperforming stores.
Another worry was that the state could privatize liquor sales. Currently, North Carolina is a "control state," where all private retail liquor stores are illegal. The N.C. ABC Commission controls all retail liquor and funds.
Ward said on March 7 that losing ABC store revenue would mean a property tax increase of 3-5 cents.
Chris Wall of The Policy Group told the Boone Town Council on March 7 that there's a push right now to start the process of going private. Both Russell and Ballard said they are not aware of any bills that would privatize liquor sales.
"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," both resolutions stated. "Of the 50 states, North Carolina ranks 44th lowest in consumption per capita and seventh highest in revenue per capita, and N.C.’s ABC system accomplishes both revenue and public health, welfare and safety objectives."
"Once it's gone, it'll be all gone," Greene said of the ABC revenue if liquor sales are privatized.
Ward told the lobbyists that staying the same on current N.C. ABC laws would "be our preference and I believe is the League’s (of Municipalities) stance as well."
Ward also said there's a worry that with privatization, crime and police call volume would go up.