Thursday morning, the chairman and commissioner of North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission denied the City of Raleigh and Harris Wholesale the advertising exemptions necessary to put Bud Light’s name and logo on the $2.5 million downtown space. The decision would have set a new precedent for the state, which does not allow public buildings to be named for alcoholic products.
“The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is not here to condemn alcohol as an industry, but we are here to regulate the alcohol industry,” said Chairman Jonathan Williams after seven representatives of various religious, legal and social organizations spoke against the name. “And it’s a highly competitive industry. The dynamics of opening up this kind of competition in the advertising field would be difficult to contain. For that reason, I am inclined against granting the exemption.”
Williams went on to wish the city well in its search for a new sponsor to replace funds—$300,000 annually—lost with the nixed proposal, calling it “a wonderful project and a wonderful asset for the community.”
As reported in an Independent Weekly story earlier this month, if Raleigh Convention Center, which manages the new venue, cannot find a sponsor, the financial burden will fall to tax payers. The city, meanwhile, might fall behind in its seven-year plan to pay for the space.
“As a taxpayer, I know the cost of increased alcohol advertising is way more than what the city needs to cover its costs,” said Aidil Collins, a coordinator at Youth Empowerment Solutions, an organization that pays teenage students statewide to speak out against alcohol and tobacco marketing in North Carolina.
Just before the hearing drew to a close, Collins led three Raleigh high school students into the meeting room. They took turns holding a massive sign that read, “How will your vote protect me?” and delivering prepared remarks about the potential impact of the exemption.
Representatives of the Raleigh Convention Center and City of Raleigh did not speak, though they offered to answer any public questions about the proposal. The convention center’s assistant director, Doug Grissom, did not return phone calls about the decision Thursday morning, though the city did issue a press release looking for new sponsors less than an hour after the decision was delivered.
“This is a very attractive venue that has great appeal to other potential sponsors,” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in the statement. “The City is actively pursuing other name and title opportunities to defray the costs of operating this facility.”