Eighty-four Years After the Twenty-first Amendment, Are North Carolina’s Liquor Laws Ready for the Twenty-first Century? | North Carolina | Indy Week

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Eighty-four Years After the Twenty-first Amendment, Are North Carolina’s Liquor Laws Ready for the Twenty-first Century?

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At the committee hearing last week, Tim Kent, the wholesalers association's executive director, invoked an image of an Anheuser-Busch-run brewery self-distributing in North Carolina. He told supporters to "be careful what you ask for."

Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam brewery - PHOTO BY BEN MCKEOWN
  • Photo By Ben McKeown
  • Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam brewery

In a letter to the editor of the Rocky Mount Telegram last month, he argued that HB 500 is unconstitutional because it would "award a special privilege to in-state suppliers at the expense of out-of-state suppliers. ... Make no mistake about it—this is a Charlotte-driven legislative initiative designed to squeeze out competition in the Charlotte market. Their legislative initiative is unfair and anti-competitive." (Kent did not respond to the INDY's requests for comment.)

Wilson has gone toe-to-toe with the wholesalers association before. When he brought up raising the barrel cap during the Pop the Cap debate a decade ago, he was told that was "a no-fly zone."

"The thing I learned during Pop the Cap is that the issue is never the issue," he says. "It's about power, it's about authority, it's about who controls the messaging, and for many, many years, the wholesalers have been the voice of N.C. beer, and now they're learning to have to share the stage on that."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Control State."

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