Lawmakers Loosen Distillery Sales Restrictions

Jeremy Norris
Jeremy Norris

Buy a bottle of your favorite spirit at the distillery beginning in October

Since opening a “tasting room” in March, Broadslab Distillery has attracted a number of tourists to its rural headquarters outside Benson — a swatch of Johnston County infamous for its moonshining legacy and the namesake of Jeremy Norris’ business.

Mr. Norris (pictured) told reporters earlier this year that the tasting room, which doubles as a storefront for the actual distillery, was a necessity for his blossoming brand after curious spirit enthusiasts had resorted to stopping by his home to learn more about what makes Broadslab so special.

His distillery has certainly captured a unique slice of local lore, but Mr. Norris’ vision is one that many business owners in North Carolina share as the state continues to establish a nationwide presence with its lauded microbreweries, distilleries and vineyards.

In fact, on the day of its grand opening, the Broadslab Distillery tasting room was already included in the framework of Johnston County’s recently created Beer, Wine and Shine Trail — a tourist’s checklist for local booze. But there was one thing nagging at Mr. Norris — and the dozens upon dozens of local spirit makers across the state — he couldn’t sell a bottle of Broadslab Distillery’s finest corn whiskey at Broadslab Distillery per North Carolina law.

That changes in October.

State legislators passed a bill in June letting distilleries sell one bottle of alcohol directly to a customer per year, essentially allowing visitors to take home a souvenir from distillery tours, starting Oct. 1. “Distilleries are becoming a great economic engine for the State of North Carolina,” Sen. Rick Gunn of Burlington, one of the bill’s sponsors, told The News & Observer. “We want to help promote their business. (The bill is) critical to help with the bottom line.” Likewise, Mr. Norris had voiced his support of the bill earlier this year.

“If you come participate in a tour, you’ll be able to buy one bottle and one bottle only. It’s just going to allow us to put something in the tourists’ hands and create a little bit of revenue for us — so we can hire an extra person or two,” he told The Daily Record in May. “The money still goes back to the state in taxes — so nobody’s really losing.”

Distilleries will have to keep detailed electronic records to make sure customers don’t exceed the state’s limitations, however.

“Here’s the beauty of it — they can only buy one bottle here. You know, we have several different kinds, so most people want to pick up more — so, they’ll end up buying more from the ABC system anyway,” said Mr. Norris.

“In my view, and I’m not just saying this because I’m on the distillers side — we’re going to be creating jobs, boosting tourism, bringing dollars into North Carolina. We’re going to be increasing local products and the demand for them. I see it as a win-win-win.”

Story courtesy The Daily Record