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Pricey dinner for ABC board costs liquor company $6,000 in fines

The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has fined a liquor company $6,000 for throwing a pricey dinner for the Mecklenburg ABC board. Last November Diageo spent about $13,000 on a dinner for local ABC board members and staff. State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents say that dinner violated state laws that bar liquor companies from giving gifts of value to ABC boards. Diageo must now pay a $6,000 fine. The state ABC commission found that Diageo had not initiated the dinner. Instead, it says the local board's senior management requested the party. In a statement, the state commission's chairman Jon Williams said Mecklenburg County's board has already been held accountable. Former board Chairman Parks Helms and former board CEO Calvin McDougal stepped down last month. They also repaid Diageo for most of the dinner. That dinner partly prompted state lawmakers to take another look at possible reforms to the state's ABC system. Representative Ray Warren of Alexander County is a co-chair of the newly-formed Joint Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control. He says possible changes could include doing away with the ABC system. "We want to determine if that's the best route for the state to proceed," says Warren. "We want to determine if that's not the best route also whether or not the current system can simply be modernized and changed in such a way that it will then function properly." The Committee will make its recommendations to the General Assembly before the legislative session begins in May.