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McGrady seeks reg reform of breweries

RALEIGH — Craft beer is on tap at the state legislature, where state Rep. Chuck McGrady and other lawmakers have introduced three bills to roll back laws that theynsay stifles growth in the burgeoning brewing industry.

On Tuesday, McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican, announced House Bill 500, which would allow local beer operations to self-distribute up to 200,000 barrels of their product.

Current law mandates that any brewery producing more than 25,000 barrels must sell its product through a wholesale distributor.

Two other similar bills were introduced earlier this month.

House Bill 67, sponsored by Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, would increase the cap from 25,000 barrels per year to 100,000 barrels. Senate Bill 313 allows brewers to self-distribute if they produce fewer than 103,091 barrels. Sens. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg; Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth; and Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg; are primary sponsors.

Breweries such as Olde Mecklenburg — which projects that it will exceed the 25,000-barrel cap this year — will suffer if forced to lay-off its distribution staff and sell its delivery trucks, said founder John Marrino.

The average distributor carries about 900 types of beer, making it difficult for smaller breweries to compete when forced to channel their products through a wholesaler, Marrino said.

Red Oak Brewery in Whitsett, near Greensboro, and NoDa Brewery in Charlotte, are also approaching the production threshold.

It’s time to ease-off regulations for craft brewers bringing jobs to their communities, McGrady said.

H.B. 500 clarifies some of North Carolina’s most complex alcohol laws, McGrady said. The legislation permits breweries to provide tastings for customers during tours, for instance.

“The more I handle alcoholic beverage legislation, the more clear it has become to me that we need regulatory reform,” he said. “Prohibiting distribution at an arbitrary limit and forcing breweries to hand over their brand, layoff their distribution employees and sell their trucks when they want to expand just doesn’t make any sense to me.”