Politics & Government

Will ‘Hail Mary’ offer bring a craft beer compromise – and a brewery to Cornelius?

Fresh craft beer
Fresh craft beer For The Washington Post

Calling the issue too important to die, a lawmaker from Cornelius said Monday he’s trying to find a last-ditch compromise that would raise the production cap for craft brewers.

Republican Rep. John Bradford cited plans by Charlotte’s Olde Mecklenburg Brewery to build a $10 million Cornelius brewery if the law is changed. Brewers now have to enter into an agreement with a wholesaler once their annual production exceeds 25,000 barrels.

Last week wholesalers succeeded in removing a provision from a bill that would have raised the cap, a move that left craft brewers threatening a court fight.

“I believe that compromise is still possible,” Bradford told a legislative news conference. “This is simply too important to my constituents back home to sit idly and let this proposal die.”

Bradford did not lay out any specific proposals but said he’s inviting both sides to talk.

Brewers had pushed for passage of House Bill 500, which would have increased the cap to 200,000 barrels before brewers had to contract with wholesale distributors. But under pressure from distributors, lawmakers removed the cap increase, leaving it at 25,000 barrels.

There was virtually no effort to compromise, from, say, the 200,000-barrel cap to 100,000 barrels or less. Last year Olde Mecklenburg produced 21,000 barrels.

Brewers, led by Charlotte’s Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa, suggested they might take their case to court. Todd Ford, owner of NoDa Brewery, said, “Apparently our only path to success is going to be a legal one.”

But both sides said Monday they’d talk with Bradford.

“We are prepared to wait a little while longer to see if we can get a legislative solution,” said John Marrino of Olde Mecklenburg. “To make one thing clear, we have always been at the table. We are quite happy to discuss something reasonable between 25,000 and 200,000 (barrels).”

Tim Kent, executive director of the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers, said his side is willing to talk too.

“Of course, I am always happy to talk to Rep. Bradford and welcome the opportunity to include Mr. Marrino,” he said. “It’s worth noting we were never approached prior to the 200,000-barrel bill being filed.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill