Among the many reasons the state of North Carolina should get out of the booze business is that the state increasingly sucks at it.
It is the state cartel, and not the free market, that decides what kind of liquor can be purchased at their stores — and served at our bars, though in defiance of the laws of supply-side economics a single-bottle purchase comes at a better rate than alcohol bought by the case. The state dictates both the hours of operation and the clientele, through the membership law, of straight-up liquor bars. And in its wisdom, it has determined just how much beer is enough for the state’s small brewers to make.
Olde Mecklenberg Brewery’s 2015 output — approximately 20,000 barrels — was enough to keep it under the state’s threshold of 25,000, after which breweries must cede distribution of their product to one of the third-party beer-shipping companies that long ago divided up the territories.
Olde Meck has their own trucks and drivers, and their own supply chain that included a 5,000-square-foot hub in Greensboro, where beers like the Gold Medal-winning Mecktoberfest awaited delivery to Triad bars.
But 2016 projections showed them breaching the 25,000-barrel limit, meaning they’d have to hand off their beer at the source in Charlotte and pay to have it shipped up here, or they’d have to cap production to maintain their in-house distribution.
In the end, it must have been cheaper to contract, because Olde Meck announced the closing of its Triad distro facility on which they’d already invested $130,000 just last year.
“In order not to underserve Charlotte — our home market — we are preemptively pulling out of the Triad,” founder John Marrino said in a press release.
It’s similar to a play made in 2013, when the General Assembly attempted to pass a law requiring all cars sold in the state to be run through third-party auto dealers, a law designed specifically to keep Tesla from selling cars in our markets.
That one never made it to the governor’s desk, but North Carolina’s liquor laws have been on the books for decades.
Like Tesla, the supercharged, fully electric car, Olde Meck is a business for a new century. But unlike Tesla automobiles, which are made in California, our craft beer movement is homegrown. There are about 150 breweries in North Carolina — more open just about every month. It’s one of the things, apparently, we do best.
We need laws that recognize the beer industry as one of the few in our state that’s actually growing. Instead, we have ones that seem designed to tie the hands of a blossoming industry.