CAL Ex. Dir. says bill would compromise integrity of ABC system.
By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
February 27, 2015
RALEIGH – During the first week in February the Christian Action League cautioned that alcohol legislation that could have a negative impact on our state’s efforts at control was likely. At the time of that warning, one bad bill had already been introduced, SB 24 – Liquor Sales – Permitted Distilleries. Legislation of the same was filed this week on the House side, HB 107 – Liquor Sales – Permitted Distilleries.
These two bills allow for something never permitted during North Carolina’s history of alcohol control. They allow liquor manufacturers in the state to sell on premises their own liquor products. Spirits have never been sold outside of local ABC stores in the Tar Heel state.
These measures provide that visitors who take a tour of a distillery may be allowed an opportunity to purchase one of its products per calendar year and the liquor sold would be labeled “North Carolina Distillery Tour Commemorative Spirit.” Sales would be allowed in places where ABC stores have been approved and made during the same hours ABC stores are open. Moreover, the legislation allows holders of distillery permits to conduct tastings at trade shows, conventions, shopping malls, festivals, balloon races, local fundraisers, and similar events approved by the North Carolina ABC Commission.
The North Carolina Association of ABC Boards has voiced its opposition to the provision allowing for sales outside of local ABC stores. Jon Carr, lobbyist for the ABC Boards, has said the intention of the legislation may be to limit the amount of sales to one bottle per year to visitors, but he reads the bill as allowing a purchase of one of each of the listed products the distillery offers for sale.
“I believe Carr is right,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This legislation is not to be taken lightly; it presents a threat to the integrity of our state’s ABC system.”
Dr. Creech said he has been addressing alcohol policy in North Carolina for fifteen years. “I can tell you that whenever a compromise of this kind is made, it always leads to another, and then another, and then another,” said Dr. Creech. He said if distilleries are allowed to sale liquor, even if it is their own, eventually other retailers will argue they should have that privilege too and press lawmakers for the same. “Incrementally, ABC will be seriously compromised and private establishments will eventually be selling bottles of liquor. That’s not hyperbole, you can bank on it,” he added.
“Don’t let some proponents of free enterprise fool you,” admonished Dr. Creech. “I strongly believe in free enterprise, but when it comes to the sale of spirits the circumstances call for a strong control system that can effectively protect the public from the negative consequences of liquor use and abuse. You can’t simply say let people be responsible for themselves because the consequences don’t simply affect the individual, they affect all of us.”
Dr. Creech also said selling spirits outside of ABC stores at distilleries undermines local option alcohol referenda. He said the sale of liquor is authorized in this state via the ballot box and no community has ever approved bottles of liquor being sold in any other venue but local ABC stores. “To allow sales by distilleries circumvents community alcohol elections,” he said.
“Its Alcoholic Beverage Control,” said Dr. Creech. “Too many of us seem to forget the ‘C’ in ABC stands for ‘control.’ Distilleries aren’t experienced with retail sales of alcoholic beverages and liquor is not the same as beer and wine. A distillery is a very different sales environment,” he added. “What is more, do you want a distillery present at what are often family events carrying on a liquor tasting? Oh yeah, that’s good for families at these events – not! Come on, that’s not control, but that’s what this bill allows.”
Research by the Christian Action League has determined ABC stores are in close proximity to distilleries that currently exist in North Carolina. On average distilleries are no more than 3 to 4 miles from a local ABC store. Furthermore, North Carolina ABC stores already specially highlight spirituous liquor products made in the state.
Dr. Creech concluded, “I hear people say, ‘alcohol is alcohol’ and treating the sale alcohol products differently amounts to a form of discrimination. But common sense and the science suggest otherwise. If a product has a higher concentration of alcohol, it’s much easier to abuse. That’s the reason North Carolinians have traditionally held spirituous liquor sales ought to be limited to the strict confines of ABC stores. Why would we want to compromise that fine system which serves us so well to prevent the inconvenience of a few who could easily run down the road about 3 miles to a local ABC store and buy the distillery’s product? Why would we sell our birthright for a mess of pottage? This legislation is not good for North Carolina.”
SB 24 currently resides in the Senate Rules Committee. HB 107 was just filed and is expected to be assigned to the House ABC Committee.
Supporters of the Christian Action League are urged to watch their email closely for Urgent Christian Action Alerts (UCAA) about this legislation. At the proper time, concerned citizen Christians will need to respond quickly and zealously.