News: Quick Takes

Lawmakers may take another shot at distillery bill

Scott Maitland, owner of TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill. (CJ file photo)
Scott Maitland, owner of TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill. (CJ file photo)

Senate Bill 155, what has been called the “brunch bill,” appears to have gotten a jumpstart and could go forward in the next couple of weeks.

The measure has been referred to the Senate Finance committee.

Restaurants would benefit if this bill becomes law, as they could sell alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, as opposed to noon, which is current law.

The bill, and its companion — House Bill 460 — would ease rules on tastings and distillery sales.

Current law lets distillers sell only one bottle per year at the distillery to people who take tours. S.B. 155 would allow sales of five bottles per person.

Because the bill involves financing, specifically in regard to fees for tastings, it was exempt from last week’s crossover deadline.

In an effort to get lawmakers thinking about the bill, the state Restaurant and Lodging Association has gone to Twitter with the hashtag #FreeTheMimosa and started a petition on its website.

“Tell our legislators to let towns and cities allow cocktails with brunch. Sign the petition today!” says one tweet.

“#NCBrunchBill will provide jobs to people in the restaurant industry. Sign the petition today to #FreeTheMimosa,” says another.

“I’m excited,” says Scott Maitland, who owns Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill, as well as the landmark restaurant a few blocks down Franklin Street.

He’s president of the N.C. Distillers Association and also serves on the board of the restaurant association.

“It’s a great bill and great for public policy. There’s a lot of support behind it.”

He says the enthusiasm for the upcoming hearings will be a testament to that broad support. The Senate last acted on the measure March 30, when it was referred to Finance. The House referred its version to Alcoholic Beverage Control committee March 27.