Raleigh, N.C. — In baseball stadiums and hockey arenas throughout the country, beer vendors roam the stands selling to thirsty patrons.
Under current North Carolina, such sales are legal only at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, which is the only venue statewide that meets the test of having both more than 60,000 seats and a location within a city of more than 450,000 people.
A bill filed by Rep. John Hardister, R-Guilford, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from around the state would allow any venue with more than 3,000 seats to send mobile beer sellers into the stands.
"It's for customer convenience and gives the private sector discretion," Hardister said Tuesday. The bill would be helpful to disabled people who find it hard to make their way to the concession stands and will allow fans with families to stay in their seats and not miss any of the action on the field.
As he walked out of the Legislative Building, Hardister showed off letters endorsing the idea from a number of teams, including the Charlotte Checkers minor league hockey team and the Durham Bulls, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Asheville Tourists and Charlotte Knights minor league baseball teams.
The bill would maintain a prohibition on beer sellers calling out to sell their wares, he said.
"You can't hawk it," Hardister said.
The measure, he said, was inspired by the impending move of a minor league team form South Carolina, where in-stand sales are standard, to North Carolina. The measure is also backed by the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.
"It's purely a matter of customer convenience and service, allowing fans to stay in the seats with their families instead of waiting in line at the concession stand," said association Executive Director Tim Kent.
The bill has only recently been filed, so there's no formal opposition yet.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, a group that advocates for tighter alcohol controls, said his group has not taken a position of the measure but that he is not comfortable with it.
"In these smaller stadiums, you have folks that have to take the time and trouble to go to the concessions and stand in line to go buy that beer they want," Creech said. "That little bit of inaccessibility does decrease consumption rates."
Allowing for in-stand sales, he said, would naturally lead to more consumption.
"It's a little worrisome for me," Creech said.