GARLAND — With financial problems affecting the town’s Alcohol Beverage Control store, residents will now have to drive to another town if they want to enjoy spirits.
During a special meeting on Tuesday night, the Garland Board of Commissioners approved major decisions toward closing the store on Ingold Avenue. Mayor Winifred Murphy said there’s been concerns with the local ABC for several months.
“We regret that this happened to our community,” Murphy said about the store that’s been around for decades.
North Carolina is one of 17 control states. Under the Department of Public Safety, the goal of the ABC Commission is to control the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of beverages in North Carolina.
An auditor from the state’s ABC Commission met with the Garland board in February and again on Monday. Laurie Lee, director of the ABC Audit and Pricing, was present along with other town officials. Lee showed financial information with outstanding invoices of more than $28,400, which was presented by Town Clerk/Financial Officer Pamela Cashwell at the Tuesday meeting. From that amount, approximately $24,000 is delinquent tax amount due for liquor. Currently, $8,355 is in the bank.
According the state laws, liquor bills must be paid in within 30 days of invoice.
“The Garland ABC Store is in violation of the statute with the outstanding delinquent invoices,” Cashwell said.
Lee also said the state warehouse will not be able to ship more liquor to Garland until everything is paid in full. This led to a decision to close the store.
“Board members discussed the financial overview and were all in agreement that the best option to control the debt from continuing to mount was to close the store,” Cashwell said.
The board also made a decision to liquidate items to payoff the debt owed.
A letter was submitted to the state’s Commission, which was read by Michael Toler, a member of the Garland ABC board.
“The recommendation is due to the expenditures exceeding revenue,” Toler said. “We regret that this decision had to be made. We thank Ms. Laurie Lee for her assistance throughout this process.”
The work to dissolve the ABC system includes phasing out the store and checking the inventory, which will be handled by state employees. They will also try to sell the existing inventory to other ABC stores in the area.
“There may be some older liquors that no one wants, but they will try to sell it off,” Murphy said.
An audit for the previous fiscal year is also being processed. Town officials would like to extend the exam, which may increase the ABC debt. Murphy said some of the other costs include insurance, electricity and other bills.
Employees were later notified and keys were handed over to Cashwell, who selected to handle the financial process of the transition. A notice for customers was placed on the board.
So far, it’s unknown if the town and ABC boards will be held responsible for the debt. Board Attorney Michael Porter will research the matter and contact state officials. It may involve a process of the town board negotiating with creditors to resolve all accounts.
“I couldn’t find any case law anywhere where an ABC store had been sued for closing down and not paying bills,” Porter said.
Former Garland ABC chairman Randy Smith submitted a resignation letter dated Aug. 19. During the meeting, Murphy read the words from the former chairman. He thanked commissioners for the opportunity to serve on the board. After the board accepted the resignation, Toler was appointed as chair.
“We will still need a board in place through the transition process,” Murphy said. “It’s a lot to get done.”
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