The governor signed the bill Monday afternoon at Graybeard Distillery in Durham.
The law, which goes into effect Sept. 1, does the following things:
- Changes classification of breweries and distilleries that do not prepare food on site (meaning pets can be allowed in these locations)
- Gives distilleries the right to serve cocktails on-site and sell more alcohol in house
- Makes it easier for distillers to do business with bars and restaurants
The governor was joined by other lawmakers at the signing ceremony, and Cooper said the bill's passage is good for business.
"People can come to the place, take the tour, see how it's made. Then taste it. And really experience it," Cooper said. "The distilleries had not been given that freedom. This gives them the kind of freedom that our craft beer industries have."
The law will help level the playing field, said Scott Russ of Graybeard Distillery.
"We're now able to bring folks in and show them how to make this product," Russ said. "And sample the product, and also engage with them a little more and show versatility in the product. It's going to essentially create new revenue streams for the state."
"Today's spirits consumers are fascinated by cocktail culture and want to learn more about the heritage and taste profile of different types of distilled spirits," said David Wojnar, Vice President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. "Consumers want to purchase these fine spirits for their home, but they would like to sample them before making their buying decision. Spirits tastings events provide consumers with the opportunity to 'try before they buy' in a responsible retail setting."
Cooper reminded potential critics that the state still has stringent alcohol controls in place.
"I think these distilleries will be gearing up over the next month and ready to go," Cooper said. "And remember, we still have a tight regulation system in North Carolina for alcohol and you have to worry about consumption and safety and all of those things -- and I think this legislation is a good balance."
Distillery owners couldn't be more pleased.
"It'll justify the expenditure of the investment of expanding this," Russ said. "I'm just kind of over the moon right now. This was fantastic."