News: Quick Takes

Bill allowing beer and wine at university stadiums clears another hurdle

House Bill 389 could soon become law.

The Senate/Higher Education Committee on Wednesday, June 5, approved the bill, introduced in the Senate as S.B. 296. It passed the House, 88-24, April 16.

The bill heads to the Senate Commerce Committee.

H.B. 389, if passed by 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.

Sens. Rick Horner, R-Nash; Chuck Edwards, R-Buncombe; and Norman Sanderson, R- Carteret, spoke out against the move.

“I can’t see that we are helping students by allowing them to purchase alcohol in a stadium,” Edwards said during Wednesday’s committee meeting.

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, Elon and Duke — that are already selling alcohol at athletic games, a news release from sponsor Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, says.

UNC-Pembroke did not sign the letter.

Don Metzger, UNCP Board of Trustees chairman, issued a statement saying the university will continue with existing alcohol policies, the Robesonian reported. Consumption of alcohol is allowed during tailgating activities before Braves football games, but not in the stadium.

“While we respect the intent of our sister institutions and support their efforts, we believe allowing open alcohol sales at our athletic events could potentially send the wrong message to our community,” Metzger said in the statement. “UNC Pembroke does allow tailgating and consumption of alcohol at athletic events for those of legal age under strict university guidelines and policies.”

Simply put, as Bell emphasized, the bill would allow adults of legal drink age the opportunity to act responsibly.

“By giving N.C. public universities the option to sell beer and wine at athletic events, this bill will improve safety and encourage local economic development,” Bell, a primary sponsor, has said. “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 news 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 — from nearly 300 incidents to about 60 — while also generating $1.2 million in sales that year.

Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, initially opposed the bill but, in his words, spun 180 degrees.

“This is actually a good idea that seems to be mitigating the effects of alcohol at athletic events,” he said.

“On its face it may seem like a bad idea, but in its substance, it’s actually working.”

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Guilford, called the measure good, sound policy.

“If you get stumbling drunk over $10 beers, you should probably be someplace else, anyway,” he said.