On Saturday evening, I visited the Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill. While there are breweries and wineries popping up all over the state, there are far fewer distilleries in North Carolina, so the tour and tasting there was a bit different – and really interesting. I learned a bit about the distilling process, saw the facilities, and tasted samples.
If you’ve ever been to a brewery or a winery, you know what comes next – the shop. Like what you tasted? Buy some and take it home!
Only it doesn’t work that way at a distillery. No, North Carolina’s ABC laws prohibit distilleries from selling their spirits directly to customers. If I want to buy any of what I tasted Saturday evening, I’ll have to go to my local ABC store and see if they carry it. Many across the state do, but not all, so there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get it easily.
We at the John Locke Foundation have long supported privatizing liquor sales in North Carolina. We’re one of only 17 states that use this sort of system to control sales. (The details of what is and isn’t under state control in those states varies widely.) But distilleries like Top of the Hill are actually asking for something much more limited. They’d just like to be allowed to sell one bottle per person per year to folks who visit their distillery. One bottle.
There were maybe a couple dozen people on my tour Saturday. I’m guessing half would have bought a bottle if the law had allowed it. And there were two tours that day. So we’re talking maybe 20-25 bottles they could have sold that evening. It’s not huge volume, but it could be significant for a small business. It’s time for North Carolina to rethink its ABC laws and loosen regulations that make business more difficult for entrepreneurs like those at Top of the Hill Distillery.