Oct. 8 will mark three years since people living in and around Pembroke have had the convenience of buying bottled alcohol at a nearby ABC store. Instead, they have had to travel to stores in Maxton, Red Springs, Lumberton or elsewhere, burning expensive gasoline and wasting valuable time.
Additionally, those municipalities — and not Pembroke — stand to benefit from potential tax revenue that alcohol sales are intended to generate. That revenue is unlikely to be a lot, but every little bit helps in tough economic times that have local governments shrinking.
The state ABC Commission padlocked the Pembroke ABC store at 203 N. Vance St. on Oct. 20, 2008, after an audit showed that money and inventory were walking out the back door. Soon enough, the Pembroke Town Council did its job by replacing the town’s ABC Board, and told the new members to get to work reopening the store and to put in safeguards to prevent thefts and to give the store a chance to turn a profit.
You would think that reopening the store would be as easy as A-B-C, but that has not happened, and on Tuesday night, Joshua Malcolm, the chairman of the Pembroke ABC Board, is scheduled to tell the council why 35 months hasn’t been enough time, and — presumably — what’s next.
More than once during the last couple of years this newspaper has tried to update our readers, especially those who would patronize the Pembroke store were it open, but Malcolm isn’t one to return our phone calls; on the rare occasion a reporter has spoken with him, Malcolm has made it clear that he isn’t going to provide any information. What Malcolm fails to understand is that tens of thousands of people get their local news in these pages and at www.robesonian.com, many of whom have an interest in that store, and he is stiff-arming them, not just us.
That is precisely why Malcolm will appear before the Pembroke council on Tuesday, to provide information that the public deserves to have.
We have been told privately by town officials that initial plans were to move the store to a new location, but finances were a problem. More recently, the plan seems to be to renovate the Vance Street store, but again, we can’t say that with the comfort of knowing.
What is clear is that Malcolm’s board is uninspired, void of ideas, or inept — or perhaps some mix of the three. Malcolm has a duty to lay out with certainty on Tuesday what the plans are for reopening the store, and to provide a reasonable timetable for that to happen.
If he can’t manage that, then it’s time for the town to find an ABC Board that can.