News: Quick Takes

Lawmaker makes 11th hour effort to advance craft beer bill

Raleigh Brewing Company. (CJ Photo by Kari Travis)
Raleigh Brewing Company. (CJ Photo by Kari Travis)

RALEIGH — One state lawmaker is making a last ditch effort to give craft brewers a break from restrictive distribution laws.

Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, on Monday said he wants to reach a compromise on House Bill 500, which was gutted last week of a provision that would have lifted the cap on the 25,000 barrels craft brewers are allowed to self-distribute each year.

Any product over that threshold must be sold through a wholesaler.

The bill would have raised the limit to 200,000 barrels each year.

“I want to invite you to the table,” Bradford said to the Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association during a press conference. “And I hope you’ll send your most reasonable person into the room, because I think if we get into the room we can really sit down and work through it.”

Olde Mecklenburg, NoDa, and Red Oak breweries are slotted to reach the 25,000 barrel cap this year.

If lawmakers, craft brewers, and the Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association don’t compromise on the issue this session, a lawsuit will follow, promised John Marrino, owner of Olde Meck.

“Last week we were shocked by what happened, and we have met with legal counsel. That’s the last resort, but if it comes to that we have to protect our businesses and the families that work for them,” Marrino told Carolina Journal.

Marrino has purchased a $3 million property in Mecklenburg County, which he plans to turn into a brewery, tap room, and beer garden.

The project would put $10 million into the local economy, Bradford said.

If the legislature fails to lift the distribution cap, Marrino would be forced to halt production, cut growth, and sell the property.

He’d rather not.

“We’ve been at the table since day one, but you can’t negotiate with yourself. But if that doesn’t work, if the other side wants to play Russian roulette, we’re happy to oblige.”

Marrino has set no timeframe for a potential lawsuit, but said that he and other brewers are prepared, pending the legislature’s decision.

The House ABC Committee will meet tomorrow at 9 a.m. to discuss H.B. 500.