A bipartisan state House bill that would allow state universities to sell beer and wine sales game days has cleared another committee.
State law prohibits sales and consumption of alcohol except in certain areas of Kenan Stadium at UNC Chapel Hill and Carter-Finley Stadium at N.C. State, but House Bill 389 would expand sales and consumption to all campus stadiums, arenas and athletic facilities.
Each school’s board of trustees would have to vote to allow such sales.
Only beer and wine would be allowed at sporting events. Beer, wine and mixed drinks would be available at non-sports events if vendors have the correct permits.
The Senate Commerce and Insurance committee recommended the bill Wednesday, preceded by the Education/Higher Education committee June 5. It now goes to Rules and Operations.
The House approved the bill by an 88-24 vote April 16.
The bill would require alcohol sales take place in designated areas that allow for vendors to control sales, including checking for identification for underage fans.
Universities could set up designated alcohol consumption and alcohol-free areas.
The law does not apply to community colleges.
Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Buncombe, said the bill would “leave it to each university to determine whether alcohol sales work for them.”
He acknowledged that it is likely East Carolina, N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill would be early adopters of new or expanded sales.
It is not clear where Appalachian State, N.C. A&T, UNC Greensboro and Winston-Salem State stand on HB389, though ASU had an athletics department official present at the June 5 meeting, while N.C. A&T and UNC Greensboro were represented at Wednesday’s meeting.
An amendment to the bill approved Wednesday would allow WSSU to participate in selling beer and wine in selected areas even though it plays football at Bowman Gray Stadium, which is owned by the city of Winston-Salem.
City Manager Lee Garrity said the city’s concessionaire already sells beer in a beer-garden area during racing at the stadium.
“If WSSU wants to offer the same option to their fans, the city will make those arrangements,” Garrity said.
Mayor Allen Joines said he had “full confidence in the administration at WSSU to handle this issue appropriately.”
“It has worked well at other venues where college athletic events are held, so I can understand WSSU’s desire to have this option.”
Wake Forest began selling beer and wine at BB&T Field and Joel Coliseum in 2016 in response to fan requests.
At least 14 UNC System schools “have endorsed this measure, so it appears likely that most of the schools would at least consider offering alcohol sales,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.
“Those campuses will weigh the benefits of the additional revenue against any costs linked to new enforcement measures against underage drinking.”
Legislative opponents to the bill have cited concerns about families being subjected to more fans consuming alcohol, some of whom may become belligerent, or alcohol sales becoming such a revenue driver that it may affect or dictate other public-policy issues.
Both Edwards and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said they expect alcohol sales inside the sports venues to be limited in nature, in part because those consuming likely drank alcohol during tailgate events.
The bill has been amended to address “best practices” concerns, such as allowing state Alcohol Law Enforcement personnel to inspect third-party vendors’ services and permit enforcement. Vendors would not be permitted to sell alcohol to individuals considered to be intoxicated when entering the vending area.