Christian Action League
The House Committee on Local Government considered SB 68 – ABC Stores/School/Guilford on Wednesday. The measure, sponsored by Senator Katie Dorsett (D-Guilford) would allow the State ABC Commission, in deciding where to allow a new ABC store to be located in Guilford County, to consider whether the store is located within 1000 feet of a church, public school, or non-public school.
The legislation originated from an argument between the school board in Greensboro and the ABC Board. The Board wanted to relocate a liquor store approximately 1700 feet west of SCALE Academy next to the School – something the school board opposed.
School officials had been in contact with the ABC Board to try and resolve the issue, but to no avail. The school board then responded by filing a formal complaint with the ABC Commission and requested Dorsett introduce legislation to address the matter.
Current law in North Carolina allows local ABC Boards to choose the location of an ABC store within its own jurisdiction, subject to the approval of the ABC commission.
In making their decision on a news store’s location, the Commission follows two rules:
1. Whether the health, safety, or general welfare of the community will be adversely affected; and
2. Whether the citizens of the community or city in which the proposed store is to be located voted for or against ABC stores.
The ABC Commission will not approve a store in a location unless at least 30 days notice is given to the Chair of the Commission and until public notice has been posted at the intended location for at least 30 days. The Commission does consider any objections to the location of an ABC store whenever it is determined that the local ABC Board has considered the objections and overruled or ignored them. The ABC Commission’s rules require that new ABC stores should not be placed in areas that are principally residential, in reasonable proximity to a church, school or similar institution, or in an area that is undesirable such as a slum and where there is not sufficient parking space.
SB 68 amends the law to authorize the state ABC Commission to consider whether a proposed ABC store is located within 1000 feet of a church or school, before approving the location of that store in Guilford County.
The Christian Action League had previously expressed concerns that the bill may suffer from constitutional issues. North Carolina’s Constitution prevents lawmakers from enacting legislation that regulates local “trade” and alcohol is considered a trade in this State. “I want to see this bill pass; nevertheless, if it can’t be applied state-wide, its constitutionality is in question,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
Nevertheless, legislative staff argues that the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in Gardner v. City of Reidsville 269 N.C. 581 (1967) that the system distributing liquor through State-operated liquor stores is not “trade,” and therefore SB 68 is not unconstitutional.
“I like this legislation,” said Rev. Creech. “I’m just disappointed that it won’t be applied state-wide.”
The bill has now been referred to the House ABC Committee for consideration.
The Christian Action League gratefully acknowledges that it has drawn largely from the bill’s summary prepared by legislative staff for the writing of this story.