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WEB EXCLUSIVE Last week, the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards adopted a measure to allow bars and restaurants to sell unopened bottles of alcohol back to ABC stores.
The bottle buy back, which the state’s 170 local ABC boards may opt in to on a board by board basis, could provide some relief for bars and restaurants that have not been allowed to sell liquor on their premises since March when Gov. Cooper ordered all bars, restaurant dining rooms and patios to close.
So far, more than a dozen local ABC boards, including those operating in Durham, Mecklenburg and Wake Counties, have opted to allow bars and restaurants to sell their bottles back.
In Wake County, businesses can make an appointment to return any unopened, ABC-stamped bottles of liquor bought after January 1 of this year for the original sales price minus the mixed beverage tax paid on the bottle.
So far in Wake, around 20 local businesses have taken advantage of the measure since the commission started buying back bottles on April 6, says Ike Wheeler, the general manager of Wake County ABC. Businesses have until the end of the month to return their bottles.
“Most bars and restaurants have responded positively and really appreciate [this initiative],” Wheeler says. “Some of the bigger companies, I doubt they will bring any bottles because they can withstand this, they know this will pass over. But some smaller bars and restaurants who may operate their books month to month or every 60 days, they want to generate some funds.”
“I’m a firm believer that it’s not the general with the biggest army who wins but the one with most options, so the fact [the Association of ABC Boards] is giving us options helps,” says Kevin Barrett, who co-owns the downtown cocktail bar Dram and Draught.
Just before the shutdown, Barrett says he and Dram co-owner Drew Schenck purchased a $2500 bottle of Macallan Scotch whiskey aged 25 years; they may sell that bottle back to the ABC, Barrett says, but likely not much else.
“Our opened bottle had one serving left and we planned out and bought another bottle,” Barrett explains. “It hasn’t been opened, so to return it and get it a couple months after reopening makes perfect sense now. It helps but for us, a bar that is 100 percent planning to reopen whenever the day comes, it does not make much sense right now to sell back well stuff or our basic inventory.”
Wheeler says after they’re accounted for, all returned bottles are sanitized and then go back into the ABC stores’ inventory to be resold.
“During this time of crisis, all North Carolinians must do what we can to help our friends and neighbors in need,” said Miles Davis, president of the NC Association of ABC Boards, in a statement. Guy Zander, chairman at the NC ABC Commission, has also voiced his support for the idea of buy backs, according to a spokesman.
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