Council meets with ABC store manager, board

Members of the Town Council attended a special meeting on March 8 with the Franklin A.B.C. Board to discuss how the store’s financials are configured and disseminated. Pictured (L-R) are David Culpepper, Rita Salain, Town Manager Amie Owens, Mayor Jack Horton and Stacey Guffey.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Franklin’s Town Council met with A.B.C. store’s manager, Todd Mason on Monday morning.

In a Special Called/Joint Meeting with the Franklin A.B.C. Board [Alcoholic Beverage Control] and the Town of Franklin Council, held Monday morning, March 8, at 8 a.m., both parties gleaned much from frank discussions regarding the history of the store at 175 Macon Plaza Drive. 

Town Manager Amie Owens said the request for the meeting was based on some questions regarding the Franklin A.B.C. Board’s reports, primarily: “Why did the Town receive a flat rate each year rather than a percentage, which would fluctuate based on sales? The sales have increased from 2020 to 2021 by 14.22% and we received the same annual amount since FY2010.”  Owens explained that a percentage of the profits, after operating expenses, from the sale of distilled spirits is designated to return back to the community. 

“The Macon County Board of Education and Macon County DARE share 7% for alcohol education, Franklin Police Department receives 5% for law enforcement, with the remaining 88% net profit being distributed to the Town of Franklin,” said Owens.

Franklin A.B.C. store manager Todd Mason enlightened the Council members present, as well as Mayor Jack Horton, about the responsibilities involved with operating a state-controlled entity. Average monthly required distributions are:

 – 30% state excise tax – N.C. Department of Revenue

 – 7% liquor tax – N.C. Department of Revenue

– 5% mixed beverage tax – N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

– Rehabilitation Tax – Macon County (nickel and penny per bottle sold)

– Bailment Tax – N.C. A.B.C. Commission ($2.75 per case purchased

– Surcharge Tax – N.C. A.B.C. Commission ($1.15 per case purchased)

In addition, the Franklin A.B.C. store is responsible for its high overhead costs and numerous extraneous expenses. Mason said the lease amount, in excess of $9,000 monthly, “is the biggest component.” 

He and the other board members present conveyed the benefits of the Town of Franklin possibly investing in a building and becoming the Franklin A.B.C. landlord. 

Another challenge, offered Mason, is that employees have to be bonded to work at the A.B.C. store, meaning they must undergo background checks. Currently, there are four full-time and four part-time employees. 

“And, like other areas of the country, we have had the worst turnover in the last year or so. No one wants to work.” 

“That’s why we’re here,” said Council Member David Culpepper, “to learn ways we can help the A.B.C. board help the Town. It’s good that we are having open communication about this.” 

“For 28 years, we have done it all,” said Mason. “We have taken responsibility since we opened in 1994 and never asked for help from any governing bodies. And we have kept as much of the costs local as possible … purchasing bags locally, using a local insurance company, etc. And we do everything we can to cut back on costs, but everything is expensive and we are tied to the state’s rules and fixed prices. Customers tell me all the time that they can go across the Georgia state line and get discounts on alcohol, but I can’t give discounts.” 

To understand the history of A.B.C., the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act was submitted to the General Assembly of 1937 and a monopoly system was enacted into law in North Carolina. Currently, that state board of control is known as the N.C. A.B.C. Commission. In North Carolina, the sale of beer/wine/mixed drinks is legal only in jurisdictions that have voted in favor of it, and county/municipal boards operate the retail stores that sell bottles of liquor.

Thus, the Commission provides uniform control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of all alcoholic beverages in the state. A.B.C. boards, including the one in Franklin, meet monthly. 

Council Member Stacy Guffey asked Mason what a new and better agreement might look like between Franklin A.B.C. and the Town. 

“There might be room where we can give more [to the Town], but if we get strapped [due to financial obligations, taxes, expenses, etc.] there needs to be an agreement that the Town will help.” 

“Yes,” said Mayor Horton, “we would have to have a discussion … an understanding. The bottom line is that we all need to work together for the betterment of the Town.” 

The Council agreed that there would be further dialogue with the Franklin A.B.C. Board regarding avenues for future financial growth.