by Eric Ginsburg

If you’re drinking liquor in the Gate City — at home, in a bar or out to dinner — it almost certainly passed through at least two of the Greensboro ABC’s facilities. Unless, I guess, you’re drinking real moonshine, or you brought a bottle home from elsewhere.

Unless you own a distillery, stock a bar or work behind one, you have no reason to understand how the organization works. And those folks probably don’t have the chance to ask Vickee´Armstrong, the CEO of the Greensboro ABC board, every question imaginable about how it all works. But I do, and here are the most interesting things I learned:

1. The three boards

Considering that ABC boards semi-autonomous government entities, I figured there’d be one per county, or maybe one for each city. But as the Triad shows, the state isn’t carved up in a uniform way. There’s a Greensboro ABC board and one in High Point too, but Winston-Salem falls under the Triad ABC, which includes Clemmons, Yadkinville, Kernersville, Advance and Lewisville.

2. The biggest events

The Greensboro ABC sells more booze for the Fourth of July than St. Patrick’s Day, but guess what’s more popular than both? Homecoming. Yep, North Carolina A&T University’s annual throw-down is deserving of its name as the Greatest Homecoming On Earth. It sits at the top with New Year’s Eve.

3. The top sellers

Vodka is the Greensboro ABC board’s biggest seller —no shocker there— but you might be surprised to hear that cognac is next up. Bourbon is on the rise, which matches with a national trend. In my mind, tequila is most frequently consumed in margaritas at Mexican restaurants and when “that one friend” buys everyone a shot, but the agave-based liquor is actually more popular with individual consumers than restaurants.

4. Special order

If a customer calls and asks the Greensboro ABC to carry something specific, chances are they will. But if something isn’t on the list of approved vendors with the state, you can still special order it by the case.


5. The shipping

The Greensboro ABC board receives about four or five tractor-trailers full of booze to its distribution hub every week. That’s 4,500 cases on average, and up to 6,500 on a busy week. The team of six to eight people who handle the intake have to account for every bottle, and at times have up to 20,000 cases in stock already. Twenty thousand.

6. The sales

Before we go any further, take a guess at how many bottles of liquor the Greensboro ABC board sells in a year. That includes venues and individuals, and does incorporate a couple small outlying towns around the city’s edge. Have you made your guess yet, before we move on? What if I told you it came out to more than 500,000 gallons last fiscal year? Here goes: the final tally came out to more than 3.12 million.

7. The revenue

The Greensboro, High Point, Triad and other ABC boards around North Carolina funnel about $329 million a year back into the state and municipal governments. Locally, the Greensboro ABC puts nearly $4 million annually into the city and area municipalities’ operating budgets, which doesn’t include about $500,000 that goes to alcohol education and law enforcement efforts.

8. The biggest store

The Greensboro ABC board oversees 16 stores, and seven of them are also mixed-beverage outlets to service businesses such as bars, restaurants and hotels. The biggest mixed beverage outlet is on Cedar Street near downtown (and it used to be the only one), where the ABC office is located. But the biggest retail store in the city? It hasn’t been built yet. The Greensboro ABC plans to open a new, 6,000-square foot store at 4633 W. Market St. in the fall. It will be the flagship location.

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