Opinion

Partnership the key to a good craft beer law

At a time when our country, state and communities are seemingly more divided than ever, the passage of North Carolina’s Craft Beer Distribution & Modernization Act (HB 363) should serve as an example of how good policy can be achieved.

In this case, the key was a partnership that in the recent past seemed unlikely. Two parties that for years had strong differences of opinion on what N.C.’s beer distribution laws should look like, changed course. Craft Freedom (a partnership between The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing Company) and the NC Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association laid down their swords, sat down together and sought common ground. Not surprisingly, discussion led to understanding, and understanding led to agreement.

While this bill is certainly a big victory for small N.C. craft brewers, it is equally a win for wholesalers.

This legislation is the result of a mutual appreciation for the growing craft beer industry and what it means to North Carolina. At the same time, it preserves the key principles of the three-tier system comprised of producers, wholesalers and retailers, a system designed to ensure the safe, equitable and efficient distribution of a wide variety of beer products to retail establishments throughout North Carolina. Passage of this legislation means that North Carolina will continue to be a leader in the craft beer business, and consumers will continue to enjoy the benefits of a highly-competitive marketplace and an even greater level of choice when it comes to beer selection.

With the passage of HB 363, we see a bright future for N.C. consumers, our growing craft brewers and wholesalers alike. Not only does this agreement resolve a contentious issue that the General Assembly has faced for more than a dozen years and was long tied up in the court system, but it also bolsters two important engines of our state economy. Small hometown brewers (manufacturers) that are revitalizing urban and rural communities around their presence throughout the state, and the crucial wholesaler industry tasked with the gargantuan task of moving beer over short and long distances, making it available to every single permitted retailer in the state.

Not only was our partnership with the wholesalers critical in finding this innovative solution, it was also critical in seamlessly ushering the bill through the legislative process. The truth is, without the wholesalers collaboration and leadership, this historic achievement may never have happened. We remain grateful to the wholesalers for their partnership in moving this legislation across the finish line, and over time we believe North Carolina’s consumers and our communities will reap the benefits of this agreement.

Doing business in North Carolina, or anywhere, requires good business partnerships. For us, the wholesalers have become a strong partner and together we have delivered a bright future for beer enthusiasts in our state.

This monumental agreement should not only serve as a model for those in the craft beer business, but as an example to everyone of how sitting down and talking to those who have different views can yield real results.

John Marrino is the founder of The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Suzie and Todd Ford are founders of NoDa Brewing Company.
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