ABC Stores, Wineries and Private Clubs considered
Christian Action League
During the hectic and breakneck speed of crossover week (a self-imposed deadline that if a measure has not passed one chamber by May 14, unless the bill is a constitutional issue or has revenue attached, is dead for the remainder of the two-year session), three alcohol measures advanced.
SB 68-No ABC Establishments W/I 1,000 Ft. of Sch., sponsored by Senator Katie Dorsett (D-Guilford) passed the Senate as a local bill and with a voice vote. The legislation originates from an argument between the school board in Greensboro and the ABC Board. The Board wanted to relocate a liquor store approximately 1700 feet west of SCALE Academy next to the School – something the school board opposed.
School officials had been in contact with the ABC Board to try and resolve the issue, but to no avail. The school board then responded by filing a formal complaint with the ABC Commission and requested Dorsett introduce legislation to address the matter.
The bill would simply prohibit the location of any new ABC store within one thousand feet of a church, public school, or a nonpublic school.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that Dorsett’s bill is a good one, but he’s saddened it only applies to Guilford County.
“Moreover”, says Creech, “I have concerns the bill may suffer from constitutional issues. North Carolina’s Constitution prevents lawmakers from enacting legislation that regulates local trade and alcohol is considered a trade in this State. I want to see this bill pass; nevertheless, if it can’t be applied state-wide, its constitutionality is in question.”
At one point, Dorsett pulled the bill from the calendar to double-check its constitutionality with the General Assembly’s legislative staff. She says staff assured her the bill is constitutional as a local bill.
Having passed the Senate, the bill was sent to the House and referred to Local Government I and if favorable to the Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control.
HB 667 – 2009 viticulture/Enology Act, sponsored by Representatives Melanie Goodwin (D-Richmond) and Pryor Gibson (D-Anson) expands the privileges of wineries by allowing them to have one satellite location in the county where the winery is located, as well as to allow for Sunday sales. The measure does not violate local option by allowing indiscriminate wine sales regardless of the results of a referendum. The Christian Action League does have some concerns about the Sunday sales and is seeking to address the matter. The bill passed by a wide margin of 114-4 and will be sent to the Senate.
HB 1228 – ABC Rules/Private Clubs, sponsored by Rep. Pryor Gibson (D-Anson), would amend the State’s alcohol statutes concerning the authority of the ABC Commission to adopt rules concerning private clubs, by deleting the specific requirement that private clubs have a waiting period for membership. Gibson offered an amendment to the measure when it was taken up for consideration on the House floor. Gibson’s amendment, which passed, imposed an 18 month sunset on the proposal. Gibson expressed there was concern that the measure should have some accountability and reporting requirements to be certain it wasn’t being problematic.
During debate on the bill, Representatives Weiss (D-Wake) and Cleveland (R-Onslow) expressed similar concerns to the ones mentioned by Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, during the House ABC and Commerce Committee meetings. Rev. Creech noted that he was concerned the bill blurred the lines between what is a private club as opposed to a bar or a private club as opposed to a restaurant. “Without this waiting period for private clubs”, said Rev. Creech, “I fear we may inadvertently be creating bars, which technically we do not have in our State. And if we blur the line between a private club and a restaurant, why should a restaurant have to comply with the 70/30 alcohol to food ratio standard when a private club doesn’t have to abide by that standard. Blurring the line between a restaurant and a private club could lead to restaurants petitioning for a waiving of the 70/30 alcohol to food ratio standard. Repealing that standard, I believe, would be tragic and lead to higher consumption levels.”
HB 1228 passed the House, 89-28. It also has a companion in the Senate, SB 6, which also passed that chamber 30-17.