by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Carolina Journal Editor John Trump in his most recent article writes:
N.C. lawmakers, one could argue, have had unprecedented success this legislative session in reforming the state’s archaic laws governing spirituous liquor.
Among the successes this past year, Trump writes, are:
- House Bill 99, which establishes Alcohol Law Enforcement as a separate division under the Department of Public Safety. ALE had fallen under state ABC,
- House Bill 389allows universities to sell beer and wine at college sporting events. H.B. 389 brings N.C. public universities in line with private schools — such as Wake Forest, Elon and Duke — that are already selling alcohol at athletic games,
- [and] House Bill 363, the Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act, the result of a compromise among mid-sized craft brewers and the N.C. Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.
Still going through the General Assembly are two bills, Senate Bill 290 and House Bill 536. SB 290 is currently in the House Committee on Rules, Calendars, and Operations. SB 290, according to Trump, would:
allow N.C. distilleries to sell malt beverages and unfortified and fortified wine, as well to sell mixed beverages. The bill would allow distillers to, much like ABC stores, sell to consumers without facing the current five-bottle-per-person annual restriction.
Trump reports that while SB 290 has seen some rapid success, HB 536 has faced multiple road blocks and revisions. Trump reports that the bill would clarify rules for the consumption of alcohol in common areas, restrict the formation of new ABC boards (of which N.C. has about 170), and would allow customers to order up to two drinks at a time. The bill was held up in the House Finance Committee earlier this session. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said about the bill:
“I am disappointed with how slowly the bill got taken up… They took two months from the time the bill got there … before they let it out.”
HB 536 has already adopted multiple amendments which have removed former provisions and tacked on new provisions from other bills which died. Trump reports that HB 536 is likely to see even more amendments if it continues through the legislature, but McGrady is still optimistic:
“I’m just stunned at how much progress we’re making. I mean, it took us about 100 years to get here… I think we’re winning the battle.”