News: Quick Takes

Alcohol bills sail through N.C. House on way to Senate

A pair of alcohol-related bills sailed through the N.C. House on Tuesday, April 16, without debate.

House Bill 363, Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act, passed its third reading, 104-8. House Bill 389, Alcoholic Beverage Control/University Athletic Facility, passed 88-24.

The craft beer bill maintains the current three-tier system — producers, wholesalers, and retailers — and adds a new, mid-level classification of brewers to state law. Brewers, under the proposals, could self-distribute 50,000 barrels of their products, as opposed to the current 25,000.

Breweries that exceed 50,000 would not lose the ability to self-distribute, although the new law would affect only those breweries that sell fewer than 100,000 barrels of beer per year. Now, if a brewer sells 25,001 barrels per year, by state law, every barrel produced — including the first — must go through a third-party wholesaler/distributor.

“I’m proud to stand here before you and share with you an example of how good public policy is made is when parties who have disagreements are able to come together find common ground and get things done,” Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said in a news conference last month introducing the bill.

H.B. 389, if passed in the Senate, would expand existing legislation and also seeks to control consumption at NCAA events, such as football games, where drinking is prevalent but unregulated.

The move applies only to beer and wine — not to spirits or mixed drinks — and depends on approval by respective schools’ boards of trustees.

The bill, which has the support of 14 out of the 15 UNC System schools, would bring NC public universities in line with private schools — such as Wake Forest and Duke — that are already selling alcohol at athletic games, a news release from Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, says.

 “By giving NC public universities the option to sell beer and wine at athletic events, this bill will improve safety and encourage local economic development,” said Bell, a primary sponsor. “With it already happening at private universities and within premium seating only at public schools, it simply makes sense to give all UNC System schools the choice to sell alcohol to legal-age fans — regardless if they can afford expensive seats.”

Statistics show when schools allow the sale of alcohol the number of alcohol related incidents dramatically drop, the release says. After allowing alcohol sales in 2011, West Virginia University saw a 35% decrease in such incidents. The Ohio State University saw a similar decrease in 2016 — while also generating $1.2 million in sales that year.