The Full Senate Should Vote Down Both Bills
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Breweries and distilleries will soon be sidestepping established alcohol policies in North Carolina if lawmakers continue to give their blessing to two bills approved by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday and headed to the Senate floor.
House Bill 98, Breweries to Sell Malt Beverages on Premises, was proposed by Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) to help a Hendersonville business find a way to serve malt beverages on premises without getting voter approval.
While it applies only to areas where some type of alcohol is already being sold, it still circumvents the will of the people and would affect 16 other communities, according to the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, which opposes the bill.
The measure would allow on-premise sales at five other breweries in areas where voters have not given their approval and would open the door for breweries to set up brew-pubs in another 11 municipalities that have chosen to steer clear of on-premise sales via their local option referenda.
“We suggest that to bypass local option in our alcohol control laws is an unfair overreach of state government in favor of specific business interests at the expense of a community’s concerns for health and public safety,” the Rev. Creech said.
The Senate Rules Committee also gave a nod to a similar bill that would allow distilleries in North Carolina to sell their liquor to tourists at retail prices for off-premise consumption. Pre-arranged tour groups could purchase between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., with walk-in sales from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. in areas where an ABC store has already been approved.
If the law passes it would be the first time since the establishment of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control system more than 75 years ago that liquor is allowed to be sold at a location other than an ABC store.
Bill sponsor Sen. Martin Nesbitt Jr. (D-Buncombe) compared the sales to those of wine at vineyards across the state.
“They are tourist attractions. They have tours. People come through, and it is very much a part of their business model,” Nesbitt said. “This is for people coming through there, so they can take our moonshine home with them.”
Though questions were raised about the potential loss of revenue to the local ABC board, the committee approved the measure with little debate.
“Granted, Senate Bill 713 is a seemingly small change in the law meant to benefit tourism, but our concern is that it would create the first crack in our ABC system for the sale of spirits,” the Rev. Creech said. “We urge the full Senate to vote down both these bills.”
Both bills have been calendared for consideration on the Senate floor, Monday evening, May 23rd.