Lobbying by the CAL had gotten the provision out on the House side
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — As if three recent law changes loosening the rules under which alcohol is sold or sampled weren’t enough, liquor industry promoters in the Legislature are slipping another in one via the budget bill.
Senate Bill 897 — the Appropriations Act of 2010 — included a provision to allow on-premise liquor tasting events at North Carolina-based distilleries. Lobbying by the Christian Action League had gotten the House to take the liquor sampling portion out of its version of the bill, but on Monday the Joint Conferees of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources put it right back in.
Now there will be no opportunity to amend it out since the bill requires only concurrence votes in both chambers.
“Obviously some very powerful members of the Senate wanted that provision and got it reinstated,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
“Because alcohol is no ordinary commodity, measures of alcohol policy should be considered as ‘stand alone’ bills and not tacked on to the budget bill,” added Creech, who has addressed legislators on a number of similar “tasting event” bills.
According to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, the provision would initially affect seven Tar Heel companies from Avery to Onslow counties. But the Rev. Creech warned that it will not stop there.
“Once this is in place, liquor marketers outside the state will be knocking on the door, claiming they are at a competitive disadvantage because they can’t have their own events,” he said. “Then, of course, the most likely setting to push for a tasting event would be in the state’s ABC stores.”
In fact such a bill was proposed last year by Sen. Malcolm Graham (D-Mecklenburg), but defeated in the Senate Commerce Committee.
“Proponents of the liquor tasting events at distilleries have tried to reassure the Christian Action League that such events in ABC stores would likely find strong resistance in the legislature,” Creech said. “But a door locked tightly is always easier to defend against a threat than the one that has been cracked open.”
Already during the 2009-2010 session, lawmakers approved legislation to allow beer tasting events in grocery stores and shopping malls, to expand marketing of wine by wineries and college viticulture programs, and to remove the three-day waiting period for private clubs as a boost for bars.