Under the Dome

Growler bill, in-stand beer sales approved by House committee

A trip to the grocery store may soon include a growler fill along with the carton of milk. A House panel approved a bill Wednesday to allow retailers such as grocery stores and beer specialty shops to fill half-gallon jugs known as growlers from a beer tap, just the state's growing list of craft breweries can do. South Carolina allows a similar practice. "With our burgeoning craft brew industry, what this bill would allow is the same thing to happen here in North Carolina," said sponsor Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican.

Andy Ellen, a lobbyist for the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, said the effort is particular aimed beer enthusiasts. "It's really for people really interested in the craft brewery type thing," he explained, suggesting a Bud Light growler fill is unlikely.

The House Commerce subcommittee also approved a measure to allow in-stand beer sales at professional sporting events. Only the Carolina Panthers can offer beer sales from vendors walking the aisles because of a cap limiting it to stadiums that seat 60,000 people.

The bill would reduce the capacity cap to 3,000 -- making it possible for most sporting teams in North Carolina, particularly minor league baseball teams, to sell beer. "It's just taking what would have been done in the concessions and moving it to the stands," said Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican.

The legislation prohibits vendors from yelling "beer here" and asks the state alcohol regulators to help set new policies. But Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League opposed the bill, saying it would lead to "increased harm." "The fact they have to take the time and wait in line ... is something that drives down dangerous consumption levels," he argued.

Only one lawmaker -- House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes -- opposed the two bills, which now go to the House floor.

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