Control States

North Carolina Lawmakers Seek a Bevy of Reforms to ABC System

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North Carolina is one of about a dozen remaining states in which the government controls the retail sales of alcohol. The state’s ABC system has been mired in scandal recently after a state audit uncovered millions in waste, which has spurred calls for reforming the state’s antiquated alcohol laws. According to the Greenville Daily Reflector, several lawmakers have introduced an omnibus reform bill with numerous proposed changes:

A bill filed in the N.C. House would dramatically revamp how the state governs liquor sales and distribution, including a provision allowing for Sunday sales. Distillers, brewers, and consumers would be among the beneficiaries of the expansive measure, modernizing a system entangled in arcane laws dating back to the end of Prohibition.

Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson; James Boles, R-Moore; Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe; and Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, are primary sponsors.

Lawmakers have already introduced several items presented in Tuesday's bill, such as a move - House Bill 389 - to authorize public colleges and universities to allow the sale of alcohol at stadiums, athletic facilities, and arenas on school property, as well as a move paving the way for Sunday sales - Senate Bill 87.

The omnibus measure introduced Tuesday, H.B. 536, ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform, would, for example, allow distillers to sell spirituous liquor directly to consumers in other states and removes a limit on sales to customers visiting one of the nearly 60 craft distilleries in the state. As it stands, customers can buy five bottles from a distillery per year. All sales now are recorded and tracked.

The bill also would allow tastings in state-run ABC stores and provides a local option for cities and counties to adjust store hours, including for Sunday sales…”

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Why Being a Brand Ambassador for Booze Is Harder in Control States

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Nearly everything is more difficult for alcohol producers and consumers in control states. That also extends to perhaps unexpected parts of the drink industry, such as brand ambassadors. Liquor.com interviewed several veteran brand ambassadors about the difficulties of operating in control states:

Being a liquor rep or brand ambassador can be a rewarding career. Knowing the ins and outs of a product or brand, spending time on the road visiting key accounts and building relationships with bartenders and owners are all key aspects of the job. But working in control states adds another level of complexity and challenge to the business of promoting a spirit, especially in stricter states that impose numerous regulations on how to sell alcohol…

Primarily, control states act as a single distributor for alcohol, selling directly from state-controlled liquor stores to bars and consumers and prohibiting bartenders from placing orders with anyone else. Building that relationship with bartenders, whether you’re the ground team working in that state, or a national rep who makes the occasional stop in, is key, even more so in control states when checking back in is an essential step.

“One difference in a control state is that you can’t always be closing, because there’s a disconnect between pitching products and educating, and the actual purchase,” says [Rocky] Yeh. “They can’t just take an order on the spot. It means there needs to be a lot more follow-up but in a way that’s not nagging.”…

Read the whole feature here.