by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, Carolina Journal’s John Trump published an opinion piece on the results of local ballot measures regarding alcohol sales. North Carolina is uniquely situated, Trump explains:
North Carolina remains a control state, one of only 17 in the country. It’s also the only state that governs liquor locally, via 170 politically entrenched boards.
This means much of the control over alcohol sales is highly dispersed. For that reason, alcohol laws across the state vary widely. This localized control of alcohol sales was unmistakably on display this week in local elections across the state. Trump writes:
Eleven towns, The Insider reports, approved alcohol sales, in one form or another, on Tuesday. Tiny Saluda, which straddles Polk and Henderson counties, overwhelmingly approved mixed-drink sales, as just 36 of 157 voters opposed the ballot measure. Bethania, outside Winston-Salem, approved mixed drinks as well. Siler City in Chatham County approved the sale of malt beverages and unfortified wine, albeit by relatively slim margins.
These election results come on the back of alcohol reform from the General Assembly this year. Trump notes:
State lawmakers this session passed several measures, which the governor signed into law, easing restrictions on N.C. craft distillers and liquor sales, including allowing distillers to sell more of their own products from their own places of business.
North Carolina has been slow in abolishing its prohibition-era laws regarding alcohol, but much progress has been made in recent years from the brunch bill in 2017 to this year’s bill allowing beer sales in public stadiums. Trump quotes Rep Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, who will be leaving the General Assembly following the end of his term:
“I’m just stunned at how much progress we’re making,” McGrady told me earlier this year. “I mean, it took us about 100 years to get here. Really, in four or five years we’ve gotten a lot of movement. A few more (lawmaker) retirements over the years and, more importantly, more exposure, as these little small businesses — distilleries, breweries, cideries, wineries — become part of the community, those legislators are going to recognize that. They’ve got a lot at stake, and these things bring people into the area. I think we’re winning the battle.”