If you heard a loud sound on the East Coast on Monday it was likely multiple corks popping as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed SB 290. This new legislation is a big win for distilled spirits fans, restaurants and distillers.
For the 80 licensed distillers in North Carolina this is a game changer. It helps to level the playing field with the states wineries and breweries that have enjoyed similar rules for nearly two decades.
“Our premise was there was already a well established precedent that allowed craft beer and wine in North Carolina to do a lot of things that distilleries were not able to do,” explained Pete Barger, Co-founder Southern Distilling Company and President of the Distillers Association of North Carolina. “Beer and wine were able to do a lot of things for the last 20 years that distillers could not do. Our premise was ‘If it works for them, why wouldn’t it work for us?’ We campaigned on the concept of equity or parity in craft alcohol.”
What’s in SB 290 ABC Regulatory Reform Bill for Distillers?
SB 290 puts into law four key items that will allow distillers to expand business operations, attract new and regular visitors to their distillery and likely grow the need for new hires with a need for bar managers or mixologists.
Unlimited Bottle Sales at the Distillery – Previously a distillery was limited to selling a maximum of 5 bottles per person per year. That restriction will be removed and customers are allowed to purchase an unlimited number of bottles per day effective September 1, 2019. The price per bottle is the same at the distillery as it is at the ABC store.
Distilleries Can Sell Cocktails, Beer and Wine – This is actually split into two parts. First and foremost, distillers will now be able to sell mixed drinks or cocktails at the distillery. In addition they can now sell beer and wine at the distillery. In other words, the distillery can now be a destination. This is a big deal especially when trying to build up your spirits fans locally. Prior to this there was no real incentive to visit the distillery over and over. Now there is.
ABC In-store Tastings of Distilled Spirits – North Carolina is a control state meaning the only place people can purchase distilled spirits is at the state run store. To date the ABC stores did not allow tasting of any distilled spirits. The new law allows for consumers to taste up to four ¼ oz pours per day in-store between 1pm and 7pm. Tastings hours at a distillery vary by distillery. According to DISCUS since 2009, 17 states have permitted distilled spirits tastings – bringing the total to 47 states that allow some form of spirits tastings. Try before you buy, what a great concept!
ABC Stores Must Fulfill Special Orders to Restaurants or Bars – In the past, if a local restaurant or bar requested a craft spirit that was approved by the state ABC but not available from the local ABC store they did not have to fulfill that request. Now, with the new law if a local mixed beverage permittee requests a product the local ABC must make it available within one order cycle. In other words, if a restaurant wants to offer a specific spirit from a local distillery the ABC store must ship the product.
The bill was ceremoniously signed by Gov. Cooper at Graybeard Distillery makers of Bedlam Vodka. Sam Searcy, Co-founder and CCO of Graybeard Distillery said, “Senate Bill 290 is a game changer in the North Carolina spirits industry. This new law will allow distilleries to operate cocktail bars on site. We think this is critical in our ability to provide an experience for our consumers; we can now immerse folks in our brand. And the in-store tastings at NC ABC stores will allow consumers to responsibly sample spirits that they may not otherwise try. It’s a win-win for our state and our craft spirits industry.”
Stay Informed: Sign up here for the Distillery Trail free email newsletter and be the first to get all the latest news, trends, job listings and events in your inbox.
“Today’s spirits consumers are fascinated by cocktail culture and want to learn more about the heritage and taste profile of different types of distilled spirits,” said David Wojnar, Vice President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States ( DISCUS). “Consumers want to purchase these fine spirits for their home, but they would like to sample them before making their buying decision. Spirits tastings events provide consumers with the opportunity to ‘try before they buy’ in a responsible retail setting.”
Barger added, “We have a beautiful facility. We have 80,000 cars a day that drive by our distillery. Now we have a reason for people to stop or seek us out because while I’m not just going to go on a tour I can actually go and take a group of people and have a cocktail, while my wife who doesn’t like cocktails can have a glass of wine. It totally changes the ambiance. And people who are hanging out in my distillery for two or three hours can take a bottle of my spirits home along with hats and t-shirts. These changes also really benefit all of the farmers that grow our grains and the broader community that will benefit from the new tourist dollars we will draw to the area.”
Congratulations to the distillers and fans of locally made spirits in North Carolina. This is definitely a game changer!
View all North Carolina Distilleries.
Distillers Association of North Carolina Members
Click any heading to sort the list.[table “” not found /]