By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
May 6, 2020
Thankful and relieved but vigilant — that’s how the Rev. Mark Creech says Christian Action League supporters should feel about the Legislature’s passage of a COVID relief bill that did not include a provision allowing take-out cocktails. Passed unanimously by both chambers Saturday and signed by the Governor on Monday, the pandemic relief package lays out how the state plans to appropriate some $1.6 billion in federal funding.
Pro-alcohol forces had pushed for the bill to include a measure that would have allowed restaurants to sell two mixed drinks per takeout meal in lidded cups until the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted. The provision was included in House Bill 1043, but not in its companion, Senate Bill 704, nor in the resulting bipartisan compromise.
“The consensus was this was something we could run later in an alcohol bill and did not belong in the COVID-19 recovery bill,” Sen. Brent Jackson, (R-Sampson) told the media.
In an email, the Rev. Creech thanked CAL supporters for contacting their lawmakers in opposition to the take-out cocktails, but he also warned that the “later” Jackson referenced could come as soon as this month.
“Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) is telling the media that he’ll bring back the proposal when lawmakers reconvene,” he warned. “Lawmakers will reconvene on May 18. So this is an issue where vigilance is necessary.”
He reiterated the obvious negative outcomes — from increases in dangerous consumption levels, DWIs and accidents to rising emergency room cases and hindered immune systems — that could be expected from broadened mixed-drink availability.
“Even if the pandemic were not a part of the equation, the curbside sale and delivery of liquor drinks is outrageously irresponsible on a number of levels and should never pass, not even be entertained,” the Rev. Creech said.
But lawmakers are under pressure from a number of pro-alcohol forces, including the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (check out video on homepage title, NCRLA ABC Reform Highlights) as well as the John Locke Foundation (check out the numerous articles calling for an overhaul of the state’s alcohol control measures – the arguments in these articles are largely the bias of libertarian views and not the science of alcohol research).
Consistently labeling North Carolina’s control model of ABC sales as “archaic,” Locke Foundation leaders have pointed to the popularity of takeout mixed drinks in other states and opined in recent articles that “It’s been six weeks since people have been able to have someone mix them a cocktail.”
Representatives of the NCRLA cast the alcohol argument in economic terms, claiming that restaurants that have been hard hit by dining room closures during the pandemic need to be able to sell takeout mixed drinks in order to survive.
Their call for an increased number of alcohol outlets began long before COVID-19.
“They have pushed extra hard for loosening our state’s liquor laws,” the Rev. Creech said of the NCRLA. “The group’s #FreeTheSpirits campaign calls for ‘modernization’ of the ABC laws, which is a euphemism for privatization. I tell you, this would be a disaster and these folks up-the-ante every session. They are grievously wrong!”
On its website, the NCRLA touts its success in getting the Brunch Bill and other alcohol measures through the Legislature in recent years. The group considers Rep. McGrady an “incredible champion” for his support of alcohol bills in the Legislature.
“I think McGrady is a brilliant legislator. I think he’s a decent human being. I think I have a good relationship with him. But his advocacy for alcohol reform in this state is an extraordinary disservice. I believe McGrady’s worldview would allow for liquor to be sold anywhere. There is very little or no serious consideration of public health and safety, and to him faith doesn’t address the public-policy dimension of the matter. He leads the charge for major alcohol reforms and some lawmakers follow his erroneous arguments like he’s a pied piper. Unfortunately, alcohol is not high on their radar and they rarely think or speak of it unless it’s mentioned in the context of a drinking joke. I am thankful to God for those lawmakers who are more deliberative in their considerations and that this time their influence was the deciding factor in preventing curbside cocktails,” said Rev. Creech.