Worth over $1.2 billion, our craft beer industry is boosting North Carolina’s position as the fastest-growing economy in the Southeast.
But if we want to expand this growth, attract more talent and business and modernize our state, we’re going to have to get real about our alcohol laws.
A recent Charlotte Observer editorial called on state legislators to raise the cap on how many barrels of beer brewers can sell before being required to use a distributor, currently 25,000. Raising that limit to 50,000 or even 100,000 would be welcome news. Scrapping it altogether would be even better.
But more than that, the state of North Carolina needs a cultural change when it comes to alcohol. And that begins with our laws.
That includes revisiting the blue laws, rules which bar the sale of alcohol on Sundays before noon. Other states such as Georgia and West Virginia have already repealed similar statutes, replacing them with “brunch bills,” giving hotel and restaurants the ability to serve Bloody Marys and mimosas.
Such a provision wouldn’t be welcomed just by the hipsters of NoDa and Raleigh, but also incoming tourists willing to spend billions of dollars a year on North Carolina businesses.
Also, laws which require businesses such as restaurants and bars to pay marked-up prices for alcohol should also be revisited – a cost only passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. And that last point is an important one.
The interest of our government when it comes to modernizing alcohol laws shouldn’t be to favor industry, but rather consumers. State legislators can do that by scrapping limits and passing common-sense alcohol reforms. And maybe recalling that old taboo of the drinking age.
Anyone over 50 today in North Carolina remembers being able to buy a drink at 18. The same age we can vote, buy lottery tickets, and fight in a foreign war. That law changed only in 1986, and could easily be reversed.
North Carolina could set an example by challenging the assumptions of this bad federal law, and our less than ideal alcohol laws.
Many other states allow adults under 21 to drink responsibly at home under the supervision of a parent. We criminalize it. Thousands of teens each year are caught at house parties or sports games with alcohol in their system and forced to enter the judicial system as criminals, hurting their future job prospects. Teens fear getting caught more than the harmful effects of alcohol.
Let’s get real: gaining access to alcohol as a teen is not as complex a science as some make it out to be.
And because kids can access it only at certain times, they acquire in bulk and they drink to oblivion. Learning how to drink responsibly, at 18 years old under the supervision of a parent would be a welcome step as a common-sense reform. Much like in most parts of western Europe, binge drinking would be an uncommon phenomenon.
The way forward is progress, and the statelegislature can do this by modernizing our alcohol laws and bringing us into the 21st century. Our young people, industries, and consumers are counting on it.
Yaël Ossowski, a Charlotte-area native, is public relations director at the Consumer Choice Center and senior development officer at Students For Liberty.