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Modernizing our ABC system

The John Locke Foundation has released my follow-up report on the need to modernize and free up our alcoholic beverage control system. It opens with a tale of two North Carolina entrepreneurs: Bob, a sweet potato farmer, and Amber, a distiller who makes rum.

There’s a world of difference between how Bob and Amber can get their products before North Carolina consumers.

Bob has a lot of options:

Maybe Bob knows some local grocers and restauranteurs who’ll sell his produce. He could contract with food handlers to deliver his sweet potatoes to other grocers. He might set up a stand at a local farmer’s market. He could set up his own roadside stand. Wherever he is, Bob can offer samples to prospective buyers. Bob could even become a member of the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service’s “Got to Be NC” program, where his sweet potatoes could be listed and accessible to any consumer, grocer, or restaurant looking to showcase North Carolina products.

Amber faces a lot of roadblocks:

First, she has to get product recognized by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission. Then she has to persuade commissioners to think her rum will meet their profit threshold, so that they will put it on their official list of approved products. If it’s not listed, ABC stores can’t sell it. Once it’s listed, she has to contact each of the 433 ABC stores to urge the managers to carry her product.

Amber can’t sell her rum at farmers’ markets or fairs. She can’t sell bottles or even drinks away from her distillery. She can’t even hold tastings of her rum at ABC stores. She can’t distribute any of her products herself. If someone visits her distillery, Amber may offer a very limited amount of tastings and sell a limited number of bottles per visitor per year. But she still can’t serve drinks or cocktails to her visitors.

How did we get to this? My report explains, tells how we can reform the system, examines the implications of reform (its costs and benefits), and show why the benefits are worth it and in keeping with North Carolina’s constitutional support for individual rights and free enterprise.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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