Liquor shortages on NC shelves gets legislature's attention

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Persistent liquor shortages on local Alcoholic Beverage Control store shelves prompted North Carolina lawmakers to question the current top state ABC official and the distribution contractor.

But after a hearing Wednesday, the House ABC committee chairman leading the discussion remained frustrated, news outlets reported.

“I’m probably more dissatisfied, or unsatisfied at the conclusion of this two hours than I was hoping I would be. I have a lot more questions than I have answers,” said Rep. Tim Moffitt, a Henderson County Republican. “The cause has yet to be really discovered and I don’t think this meeting has really allowed us to really dig in as deep as we would like to.”

The House ABC committee held the meeting less than two weeks after state ABC Commission chairman A.D. “Zander” Guy resigned suddenly, citing in part the liquor supply troubles.

Deputy Commissioner Terrance Merriweather and Ben Thompson, a lawyer representing warehouse vendor LB&B Associates, took most of Wednesday’s questions.

The commission oversees the state’s wholesale and retail liquor distribution. The liquor comes from licensed distillers to the state’s two alcohol warehouses before it gets shipped to locally run ABC stores for sale.

LB&B began its latest contract with the state in July, which required the implementation of a new computerized inventory and ordering software program.

Thompson said LB&B acknowledges delivery problems in July and August were on the company.

“There were some stores that were delayed significantly on their deliveries,” Thompson told the committee. “We believe that we’ve righted that ship. … We think the delivery issues are now on track.”

But legislators say shortages still persist. Officials also attributed the problems to a dramatic increase in consumption, the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, worker shortages and insufficient storage at local stores.

Moffitt said today’s customers find shortages or delays unacceptable.

“We live in an era of Amazon Prime. If I place an order by a certain time during the day, I can receive it the next morning,” Moffitt said. He suggested another hearing was possible.

Merriweather said the ABC commission has started holding focus groups and convened an advisory group to work through issues, including training on the new software.

The commission is focused on “making sure that our customers at the ABC boards are taken care of and our customers throughout North Carolina,” he said.

Copyright 2021, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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