From a May 16 editorial in the Fayetteville Observer:
Two Charlotte craft brewers have gone to court to get the right that the General Assembly has refused to grant them. We hope we eventually get to raise a toast to their success.
The brewers – Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa – say the state’s annual production cap and prohibition of their distributing their own product at levels above that cap are an unconstitutional restriction that inflates prices and limits consumers’ choices.
Legislation that would have raised production caps for the craft breweries from the current 25,000 barrels to 200,000 died in the General Assembly earlier this year. The bill fell victim to intense lobbying pressure from the state’s beer and wine wholesalers, who say the current system is working well.
The law dictates that if brewers want to exceed their production cap, they must let a licensed wholesaler distribute the beer. That’s the best protection racket we’ve seen since the Mob faded from power a generation ago. It will be interesting to see how the distributors defend their system when they have to give depositions in the lawsuit.
The brewers should make their own choices about distribution. And we wouldn’t be surprised if the courts agree. It’s time for this state’s alcoholic beverage model to move into the 21st century.