The Rhino Times welcomes the News & Record into the club of those in support of allowing breweries some of the freedom that most other businesses have.

For over 10 years, the Rhino Times has supported raising the cap on how much beer a brewery can produce and self-distribute. Maybe if a few more media outlets get on board this law can be fixed.

The law is absurd. It puts a limit of 25,000 barrels a year on how much beer a brewery can produce and distribute without using a beer wholesaler or distributor. If you use a distributor then there is no limit on how much beer a brewery can produce.

Can you imagine if this type of law was applied to other businesses? For example, if it applied to the newspaper industry, a newspaper would be allowed to deliver its own papers up to 25,000, but if a newspaper distributed more than 25,000 papers it would have to hire another company to deliver them.

Or a farmer would be able to sell sell 10,000 bushels of produce at a farmers market, but if he sold more than 10,000 bushels, by law he would have to sell his produce to a wholesaler.

It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a business decision that the business owner should be allowed to make

What it proves is the extent of political influence through lobbyig and campaign contributions in the alcohol business in North Carolina.

We have a system of laws in North Carolina that gives beer distributors franchises from the state, which are basically licenses to make money. In each territory there is one beer distributor who can legally sell a particular brand of beer to retail outlets. By law these distributors have no competition in their territory for their brands of beer.

These laws didn’t make any sense to me so I called state Rep. Jon Hardister, who is a vice chairman of the state House Alcohol Beverage Control Committee.

I asked Hardister to explain to me how this law governing beer distribution benefitted the people of North Carolina. He said, “It doesn’t.”

Hardister said, “Frankly, we have laws on the books that don’t make any sense at all.”

Hardister said that the law limiting a brewery to 25,000 barrels of self-distribution “was basically written to benefit the wholesalers.”

He said that some states have no cap on self-distribution, that South Carolina had a cap of 100,000 barrels and for some states it’s higher. Hardister said there were 10 states that allowed no self-distribution.

He said about raising the cap, “It’s not going to hurt the wholesalers.”

Hardister said, “I don’t know why these laws exist.”

He said that the laws had nothing to do with consumption – since that was controlled by other laws – but appeared to have been written to benefit the wholesalers who have a powerful lobby in Raleigh.

He also agreed that it was difficult to get support to change the laws governing beer distribution because the lobby in Raleigh is so powerful.

Hardister noted that the small breweries have formed an association and are starting to lobby themselves, so that might help level the playing field a little.