The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday August 13th

Top of the Hill owner lobbies for chance to sell his liquor

The bar owner says his bill would promote the N.C. distillery industries.

Maitland, owner of Top of the Hill distillery on Franklin Street, is working to rally support for House Bill 107, which would allow distilleries to sell their product to visitors on the premises.

The bill only allows for one bottle per customer, per year.

It has not been easy, Maitland said. Recently, he has been pushing to just get the bill on the floor, but he does not know if it will happen.

“I don’t know. I think so. I hope so,” he said.

The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which regulates both the ABC boards and the distilleries of North Carolina, does not have a position for or against the bill, spokeswoman Agnes Stevens said.

But Stevens noted that even a small change can have larger impacts.

“The concept of the three-tier system is established over the last 70 years, so changes can be bigger than they look,” she said.

The three-tier system creates distinct roles for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. The system has been in place since prohibition, Stevens said.

Maitland said this change can only be for the good. He said he thinks of the bill not as a way to sell more liquor but as a way to promote it.

“All I can sell is my own product,” he said. “It’s not like people would use distilleries as liquor stores. The goal of this is not to sell liquor; the goal of this is to do the best marketing you can.”

Maitland said he thinks the perception some have that the bill would support and boost underage drinking is unfounded.

Lt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the department will not speculate, but will deal with enforcing a new policy when the time comes.

“The state’s voters elect their representatives to make their decisions,” he said. “We don’t really have a dog in that fight because that’s a legislative decision, not an enforcement decision.”

The North Carolina Distiller’s Association sees the bill as a way to not only help distilleries but promote tourism and agriculture. They estimate a 101 percent increase in the number of North Carolina agricultural products bought by local distilleries and a 413 percent increase in tours for visitors across the state.

Maitland said one of the reasons he started a distillery was to use all North Carolina ingredients, which is pretty rare for breweries.

Maitland said he does not want to change the current ABC system. Because they are regulated by the same entity, Maitland said North Carolina distilleries and ABC boards are actually cousins. But Maitland is concerned that his small business cannot compete with the big companies. In passing the bill, more people will look for the products of North Carolina distilleries at ABC stores, he said.

“This bill seeks to strengthen, not weaken, the ABC system,” he said. “I have always felt that the best thing I can do is get my product in your hands. Why? Because my product’s great. If I get it in your hands, I win.”

city@dailytarheel.com



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