Christian Action League
The Christian Action League (CAL) discovered late Tuesday afternoon a provision in the Senate Budget Legislation, SB 897 – Appropriations Act of 2010, that would allow on premise liquor tasting events at distilleries based in North Carolina. On pages 120 and 121, starting with line 43, “The holder of any distillery permits subject to G.S. 18B-1105 may conduct a consumer tasting event at the distillery” subject to a list of various conditions. Arguing for this provision is Sen. A.B. Swindell (D-Nash).
Swindell told the Christian Action League that the provision is only fair. North Carolina law already allows for wine and beer tasting events and liquor companies based in this state should have the same privilege, he said. But Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said, opening the door to liquor tasting events could be problematic.
Creech said, “I am concerned with the precedent this provision would set and the strength it would lend to the arguments of those who previously pushed to have liquor tasting events at ABC stores. In 2009, just such a proposal failed to get the support it needed in the Senate Commerce Committee. Should this provision in the budget bill succeed, I believe other marketers of liquor who don’t have distilleries in this state will argue that they are at an unfair competitive disadvantage because they can’t have a liquor tasting. Since they wouldn’t have a distillery in the state, given the legislative proposal of last year, the most likely setting for a tasting would be in our ABC stores. Is this really the road we want to go down?”
Swindell says, however, that he is against liquor tastings at ABC stores and would strongly oppose any such future proposal. Rev. Creech says other Senate sources have tried to reassure him with the same commitment. “But a door locked tightly is always easier to defend against a threat than the one that’s been cracked open,” said Creech. “Once there is a compromise in alcohol policy, the progression is most often downward. Tasting events at ABC stores would be one bad way this provision might morph, but it could develop into something even worse.”
Senate minority leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told the Greensboro News & Record “I think some people might see a difference in promoting wine or beer and promoting liquor.”
The News & Record also reported there are at least seven companies with distiller permits across North Carolina that the provision would affect.
“It is always disturbing when a measure of this nature is stuck in the budget,” said Rev. Creech. “It becomes nearly impossible to get it out. I just wish that on these questions of great import lawmakers would agree to introduce them as a stand alone bill. This doesn’t pertain to the budget and it’s not an appropriate battle to fight at this time. I think for that reason alone they ought to take it out.”
The Budget Bill passed its third reading in the Senate on Thursday and now moves to the House for consideration. The Christian Action League will do what it can to convince lawmakers on the House side to amend out the provision.
Take Christian Action: Keep watching for CAL’s reporting on this issue. You may be asked to contact your Representative in the NC House about this matter in the near future.