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Increased demand, supply shortages plague North Carolina liquor stores

Whiskey Wars
Bottles of George Dickel Tennessee whiskey are displayed in a liquor store Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Alcohol regulators ended their investigation into whether George Dickel, a subsidiary of liquor giant Diageo, violated state laws by storing whiskey in neighboring Kentucky. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey

Increased demand, supply shortages plague North Carolina liquor stores

October 20, 02:00 PM October 20, 02:00 PM

Liquor stores in North Carolina are trying to keep shelves stocked as an alcohol shortage persists.

Brantley Uzzell, general manager of the Lenoir County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said stores are having a difficult time stocking tequilas, brandies and bourbons. The issues were sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which officials said has led to supply interruption, delays and labor shortages.

“I don’t think that anybody anticipated what this pandemic was gonna bring on,” Uzzell told reporters.

Uzzell, who is North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission Board treasurer, said the pandemic had caused shortages in truck drivers, glass and other raw materials needed to keep the liquor supply rolling. The chair of the ABC Commission has resigned, citing anxiety over the challenges with liquor distribution.

Alcohol policy expert John Trump, who is the managing editor of the John Locke Foundation-affiliated Carolina Journal, said the state’s monopoly system is exacerbating the liquor shortage.

The ABC Commission, a state agency, has control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of all alcoholic beverages in North Carolina, along with 171 local boards. The local boards get a portion of the profits from the alcohol sales.

“You take the free market part out of it, which is huge, right, because people can order what they want,” Trump said.

Trump, who wrote the book, “Still & Barrel: Craft Spirits in the Old North State,” said all of the alcohol in the state is stored in two warehouses in Raleigh. It is then distributed to the various boards. Officials also have blamed supply delays on a change in distributors.

Ben Thompson, attorney for the distributor LB&B Associates Inc., recently told a legislative panel the issues were because of increased demands and the supply and workforce shortages.

“You can’t deny the growth of the product and product sales in North Carolina,” Thompson said. “And that says that the ABC commission, the local boards and, I think, LB&B have done a good job of serving the interests of the good people of North Carolina.”

Uzzell said the advantage of North Carolina’s controlled alcohol system is it does not cost anything other than sales tax, and those taxes go back to their local coffers.

“So, with that being said, if it were to privatized, I think it would cost the nondrinkers money as well, because like I said, they’d have to make up that tax revenue somewhere on the backend,” Uzzell said.

The ABC Commission said it would continue to monitor LB&B Associates and work on the issues contributing to the shortage.

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