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North Carolina Legislature Passes ABC Omnibus Legislation

Last night, the North Carolina legislature passed Senate Bill 155 (“SB155”), ABC Omnibus Legislation (LINK). SB155 is known as the “Brunch Bill,” but over the past week other pending alcohol legislation has been merged in with the bill, including House Bill 500, which contains several provisions benefitting North Carolina’s breweries. Below is a summary of some of the alcohol law changes coming to North Carolina, if SB155 is signed by Governor Cooper.

Earlier Sunday Sales – The highlight of the “Brunch Bill” is a section authorizing local governments to allow sales of alcohol before noon on Sunday. Local governments may pass an ordinance allowing alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings. SB155 previously focused only on restaurants serving alcohol for on-premises consumption, but the legislation was expanded to include all permittees, whether selling alcohol for on- or off-premises consumption.

Removing Food Sales Requirements for the Sale of On-Premises Unfortified Wine – North Carolina has food sales requirements for some on-premises permits. Generally speaking, the higher the average alcohol of the product type, the more food must be sold by the permittee in order to serve that product type. Currently, no food must be sold in order to sell beer for on-premises consumption, some food for unfortified wine (16% ABV and under), and substantial food for fortified wine and mixed beverages. SB155 removes the food sales requirements for unfortified wine by enabling an establishment that does not sell any food to obtain a permit for unfortified wine on-premises consumption.

Approval of “Crowlers” as Growlers – Currently, “crowlers”—32 ounce aluminum cans designed to be filled for consumers on-demand in the same fashion as a growler—do not meet the definition of a growler in North Carolina because the container is not “resealable.” SB155 amends the definition of a growler to remove the resealable requirement, so that crowlers may be filled by retailers for consumers on-demand in the same way that the retailer may currently fill and sell growlers.

Off-Site Storage – SB155 will allow alcohol producers to store alcohol off of the permitted premises, if the off-site storage location has been approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Currently, breweries, wineries, and distilleries are limited to storing alcohol only at their permitted production facility and any permitted wholesale locations.

Distillery Special Event Permit – Breweries and wineries have the ability to obtain a special event permit allowing tastings and sales at off-site special events, such as festivals, fundraisers, and conventions. SB155 creates a similar permit for distilleries. Distilleries (including supplier and broker representatives) holding the special event permit would be able to give away free tastings at certain special events. Tastings per consumer are limited to 0.25 ounces of any one product and 1 ounce

Farm Breweries – North Carolina has several communities that do not allow the sale of alcohol. However, winery tasting rooms are currently allowed to obtain permits for the sale of wine for on- or off-premises consumption, regardless of the results of any local wine election. SB155 creates a similar exception for brewery tasting rooms, but only if local government approval is obtained, and only if the brewery is also a farm that produces agricultural products, including barley, other grains, hops, or fruit, for use in the brewery.

Clarifications for Breweries – SB155 contains several clarifications for breweries, formalizing operations or activities that are for the most part already in practice but not yet explicitly authorized. The ability of a brewery to give beer tastings to tour participants is made official by SB155, as well as authorization for a brewery to sell beer from other producers in its taproom. SB155 also allows a brewery to receive beer in North Carolina from an out-of-state production facility for sales to North Carolina wholesalers. Further, the bill confirms that a brewery (and any other commercial permittee) may taste alcohol on the permitted premises for sensory analysis, quality control, or educational purposes.

If your business has questions about SB155 or North Carolina alcohol law, contact Strike Kerr & Johns for more information.


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