Please Call Your State Senator to Oppose it
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
May 1, 2020
State lawmakers are on a fast-track to approve bills that would bring relief to those negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But if they aren’t careful, they could serve up a dose of harm along with the help, says the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
He is calling on members of the Senate to reject a provision of House Bill 1043 (Pandemic Response Act) that would temporarily allow ABC-permitted restaurants to offer curbside sales of mixed beverages for off-premise consumption, including delivery.
“Although this provision may be well-intended and meant for helping the ailing restaurant and lodging industry during the pandemic, it hurts another segment of our state’s citizens,” the Rev. Creech said. “Drinking is sky-high at this time. U.S. sales of alcohol are up by more than 55 percent. Online sales are up by 243 percent. Overall, liquor sales in the Tar Heel state have jumped by 21 percent.”
Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) spoke out against the alcohol provision in the House on Thursday, even as she praised the rest of the bill.
“This is a really wonderful bill, and it would be more wonderful if it didn’t have one section in it. That’s Section 5.4.7(a&b),” Hurley said. “… If it could be removed it would be a 100-percent better bill.”
Hurley said she had received emails from constituents who already questioned why the state’s ABC stores were deemed essential while so many other businesses had to close.
“I was told that the reason this happened [ABC stores remaining open] was because they were afraid the beds would be taken-up in the hospitals [by those suffering alcohol withdrawals], and there would be no room for the COVID 19 patients,” Hurley said. “That could be possibly true because we do have a terrible situation with addiction.”
The Rev. Creech said allowing takeout cocktails would work against the state’s goal of keeping emergency rooms and hospitals freed up.
“By creating additional outlets with curbside sales of mixed drinks, the state is only increasing the probability of dangerous drinking levels that will exacerbate alcohol-related problems, creating an additional unnecessary public health hazard to the current pandemic,” he said.
People with problematic drinking behaviors already face increased challenges brought on by anxiety, loneliness spurred by social distancing and compromised immune systems.
“The last thing they need during this time is increased access to alcohol,” Creech added.
Even though the mixed drinks would have to have a secure lid, and purchases would be limited to two servings per meal, he said the temptation to open them and drink them on the way home would lead to more impaired driving.
Rep. Hurley was not the only House member troubled by the possibility of allowing takeout cocktails. During a committee meeting on the bill, Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) said he was “deeply concerned.” And it appeared to be the alcohol provision that led Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) to cast the only negative vote on the $1.7 billion relief package. He had filed an amendment, but House leaders did not allow it to be heard.
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved a similar $1.35 billion plan called the COVID-19 Recovery Act. Efforts to reconcile the two are underway.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) tried to add a mixed-drink provision to the Senate bill, but reversed course after a conversation with Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
The Rev. Creech urged members of the Senate to oppose the House version of the bill as long as it includes the possibility of takeout liquor-by-the-drink.
“This legislation is like an omelet with a rotten egg in it,” he said. “Proponents will contend that this is something only temporary. Don’t believe it! Once it’s allowed, there will be a strong push to make it permanent. Once allowed, it will likely always be allowed. This is not responsible alcohol policy.”
Creech added that concerned citizens should contact their state Senator through the weekend. “Contact them at home, send an email, or leave a voicemail on their office phone. Urge him/her to oppose cocktails and other mixed beverages being sold curbside. Time is of the essence, he said.”
If you do not know who represents you in the NC Senate, go to this link and follow the prompts: https://www.ncleg.gov/FindYourLegislators
It should take less than 5 minutes, and your influence to stop this poorly advised proposal might help to save someone’s life.