NC leaders say they are taking steps to deal with liquor supply problems

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C (WNCN) – Leaders of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission said Wednesday they’re taking steps to deal with liquor supply issues across North Carolina, but some legislators said they had unanswered questions following a two-hour hearing.

Amid the pandemic, global supply chain and labor shortage issues have impacted a variety of industries, noted Deputy Commissioner Terrance Merriweather.

That’s happened as demand for liquor has soared. The ABC Commission said in July of this year, sales were almost 40 percent higher compared to July 2019.

However, they acknowledged a software change made that same month exacerbated problems with getting orders processed and store shelves stocked.

Ben Thompson, an attorney representing LB&B Associates, a private company with which the ABC Commission contracts, said, “Yes, July was an awful month for everybody.”

“There’s no question there were delivery problems in July and August. We own that,” he said. “We fell behind on our deliveries. We just could not keep up and catch up.”

Republicans in the General Assembly held a hearing Wednesday questioning why those issues persist.

“I live in Southern Pines. I went down to the ABC store the other day, and it was bare,” said Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore County).

Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union) said he’s noticed ongoing issues, particularly in rural parts of his county.

“The struggle is still real today. And, we are months past July,” he said.

Merriweather said ABC is holding focus groups with local ABC boards to help with navigating the new ordering system. He also said deliveries are improving after the issues experienced this summer.

“What we have done is working with LB&B to not ask them to meet the obligations of the contract but to exceed them. We know training is an issue,” he said.

Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Henderson) said he recently toured one of the ABC’s warehouses in Wake County and saw that it was full of products, which Merriweather also acknowledged. Moffitt questioned why, when that’s the case, those products aren’t getting to stores.

“I don’t believe we have the answers that we need as to why the breakdown has occurred,” Moffitt said, noting that not all states are having the same problems North Carolina is.

The former chairman of the ABC Commission, A.D. “Zander” Guy, resigned earlier this month citing the liquor shortage and telling the Associated Press that stress of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to that decision as well.

Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) said she supports keeping North Carolina as a control state and worries the issues with distribution could fuel those who want to privatize the system.

“I’m begging you to please get it right,” she said.

Republicans decided to refer the issue to the General Assembly’s Governmental Operations Committee, which is a joint House and Senate committee co-chaired by the leaders of both chambers that investigates various issues in state government.

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