Privatization of liquor

Published 9:20 am Monday, January 28, 2013

To the editor:

It’s time for North Carolina to consider a move toward privatization of liquor stores. Do we need the state to control the ABC stores to the extent it does? Does the city need to be involved to the degree it is? Other states/ municipalities have a different model and function fine. The state can still regulate according to law and collect taxes, but the control the ABC Board exercises in NC seems like an anachronism.

The main weakness is that it almost ensures ABC stores will be unattractive, not customer focused, unresponsive to the market, inconvenient, stinky in some cases and reflective of our puritanical views that we should make buying alcohol unpleasant because consuming alcohol is a sin.

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I, for one, hated even stepping foot in the Tryon ABC store. First, it smelled of cigarette smoke. I complained and the clerk said they never allowed smoking inside. But it reeked of tobacco smoke nonetheless.

Second, it was not a friendly place. The attitude wasn’t ‘we need you as a customer, but rather ‘you need us.’

Third, the hours were inconvenient. The store didn’t open until quite late in the morning and some people do all their shopping early. I think the assumption the store makes is that people buy their liquor when the mood hits them to drink, not when they do their regular shopping. This is the same assumption that underlies not selling alcohol until after church lets out on Sunday and not selling alcohol on election days.

The ABC Board assumes it has one kind of customer: the person who has an alcohol problem and would miss church to buy a drink or sell their vote for a drink. Finally, the store was completely unattractive, a jumble. Again, I believe the objective is to make the alcohol buying experience as loathsome as possible because the belief the state has is that people who drink shouldn’t enjoy the buying experience. They should be made to cringe and reflect on their sins. No private merchant could make money with that kind of attitude. What makes the state think they can?

Times change. It’s time to rethink the ABC model. I believe a private merchant with a customer focus could make money. Governments don’t know how to make money, only how to spend it.

– Dorothy Kirk, Tryon