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Liquor buy-back would give restaurants a lifeline

N.C. Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, and the N.C. Association of ABC Boards want to allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol back to N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission stores.

The resolution, unanimously passed by the board association Wednesday, supports local ABC policies permitting local boards to “allow any bottles that have been purchased since Jan. 1, 2020, to be returned for a refund at current retail price, less the mixed beverage tax,” a news release says.

ABC boards would adopt local policies to implement the buyback program. Bars and restaurants within a locality then could sell their unused liquor back to ABC stores, the release says.

COVID-19 is crippling restaurants and private clubs throughout North Carolina and the country, which often count on alcohol sales to thrive and, oftentimes, survive.

“This program would help struggling bar and restaurant owners raise needed cash to withstand the economic shutdown,” said Gunn, who for years in the N.C. Senate has pushed for reforming the way the state governs liquor.

“This is the hardest-hit sector in our economy, and this is a simple step we can take now to help deliver some relief.”

Scott Maitland owns Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery in Chapel Hill, which is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

“This would be a great opportunity for those folks who feel the need to do this,” Maitland told Carolina Journal. “I haven’t thought about this much, because hopefully we’ll reopen in a few months. But it’s good to know it’s there if I need it.”

Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association, is pleased with the move.

“We are thrilled with N.C. ABC Commission Chair A.D. 'Zander' Guy announcement today that the commission will support a buyback policy for unused liquor during the current State of Emergency,” she said in an email. “NCRLA has been working closely with Gov. Roy Cooper’s office to push for an updated buyback policy in order to help restaurants and bars across the state. Traditionally, such a decision would be left up to each individual ABC board. This announcement will help put cash in the hands of mixed-beverage permittees at a time they desperately need it.”