NASHVILLE – Still less than two weeks into his job as the new chairman of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, Rocky Mount native Jim Gardner said he would have some concerns about privatization of the ABC system.
While visiting the Nash County ABC offices and warehouse Wednesday, Gardner said that based on the information he has seen so far, at this point he would not be in favor of privatizing the system. He said his main concern is control.
“We’re dealing with alcohol,” Gardner said. “I think it has to be controlled.”
Privatization has been a topic of discussion in the state during recent years.
Gardner said he plans to review studies that have been conducted on the issue of privatization, as well as examine other states in the country that have private liquor sales.
“I’m going to look at all (the studies) and try to take the proper time to really get a total understanding, pro and con,” Gardner said. “But on what little I know right now, I would be very much concerned about any thought of privatization because I think we would lose control.”
Gardner said he is concerned from a control standpoint that if privatization occurred, every supermarket or convenience store in the state could go into the liquor business.
He said he also would have concerns from a profit standpoint because states that operate on a privatized system don’t bring in as much money for their state governments.
Revenue from liquor sales contributes to the state’s general fund and helps support local governments where alcohol sales are allowed.
Although Republicans often support the idea that the private sector can do things better than government, Gardner said he doesn’t necessarily feel that way when it comes to alcohol, primarily because of the controls that are needed for its sale.
The control system the state has now appears to be pretty solid, Gardner said.
Gardner, who was appointed chairman of the N.C. ABC Commission by Gov. Pat McCrory in late January, said he is working to learn about the operations of the agency.
“It’s been fascinating so far because it’s all new,” Gardner said.
He said the appointment was a surprise.
“It wasn’t something that I had even thought about,” Gardner said.
The N.C. ABC Commission works to provide control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages in North Carolina, according to the agency’s website.
Gardner spent time Wednesday morning touring the Nash County ABC offices and warehouse.
He said he was impressed by the Nash County ABC system, which he said is one of the top operations in the state in terms of control and profit.
Last year, the Nash County ABC system put more profit back into the county than 84 percent of counties in North Carolina, Gardner said.
Gardner said he is concerned about underage drinking among high school and college students. He said he would like to increase educational efforts to help prevent underage drinking.
The N.C. ABC Commission already has been doing work in that area, but Gardner said he would like to expand those efforts.
“I want to see us doing even more,” said Gardner, who has nine grandchildren, four of whom are in college.