Legislators seek end to ban on alcohol in UNC-run sports stadiums

Jazmine Jimenez pours an Eccentric Brewery Company stout beer during the fourth annual Tap Into Downtown Odessa on Saturday, March 16, 2019, on Grant Street in Odessa, Texas. Eccentric Brewing Company is based in Midland, Texas. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

RALEIGH — Two GOP legislative leaders, NC House majority leader John Bell (R-Wayne) and Senate majority whip Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), announced a bill, filed in both chambers, that would allow UNC-system schools to serve beer and wine at athletic events.

The act, which is HB 389 in the House and SB 296 in the Senate, was the result of lengthy conversations among stakeholders and concerned citizens who concluded that sales inside the stadium would actually prevent more heavy drinking outside the stadium at “tailgate” events.

“For the past two years, we have had constructive conversations with university leadership, law enforcement, coaches, and students about the sale of alcohol at athletic games,” said Rep. John Bell in a statement. “We believe this bill creates a positive path forward that will help improve safety while allowing our state-funded universities the ability to provide the best game day experience possible.”

The current General Statutes include a section that reads:

“No permit for the sale of alcoholic beverages shall be issued to a business on the campus or property of a public school, college, or university. This subsection shall not apply to the following:”

Some exceptions follow, and this bill would add another exception that reads:

“A stadium, athletic facility, or arena on the campus or property of a public college or university, if the Board of Trustees of the public college or university has voted to allow the issuance of permits for use at that stadium, athletic facility, or arena.”

“Beer and wine sales are already happening at private universities and in specialized areas at public schools in North Carolina,” said Gunn. “This bill puts in place a standardized system while providing each school with flexibility to implement it as they see fit. I believe both the safety and economic growth that comes from this bill are a win for all parties involved.”

The sponsors’ press release claims that in West Virginia, after allowing sales at college athletic events in 2011, there was a 35 percent reduction in alcohol-related incidents, with similar numbers in Ohio. Private colleges in North Carolina, including Wake Forest University, have already given the green light to the sale of alcohol, but for state-run schools, the General Assembly would first need to approve the change.