Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law a bipartisan state House bill that would allow state universities to sell beer and wine on game days.
With Cooper’s signature Wednesday, the law goes into effect immediately.
The Senate passed House Bill 389 by a 33-12 vote June 17. The House approved the bill by an 88-24 vote April 16.
The Senate added an amendment June 12 that allows Winston-Salem State University to sell beer and wine in selected areas even though it plays football at Bowman Gray Stadium, which is owned by the city of Winston-Salem.
The House voted 88-25 on June 19 to approve the Senate change.
Previously, sales and consumption of alcohol on state campuses were prohibited except in certain areas of Kenan Stadium at UNC Chapel Hill and Carter-Finley Stadium at N.C. State University.
Each university’s board of trustees would have to vote to allow such sales, as well as on whether beer and wine could be consumed in the stands or just in designated areas, according to Jimmy Milstead, communications director for House majority leader John Bell, R-Johnson, who is the bill’s primary sponsor.
George Knox, interim athletic director at WSSU, said Wednesday that “conversations haven’t gone forward yet” on whether to establish beer and wine sales in time for the Sept. 14 home football opener against Catawba.
“There is a lot that has to be worked out with the city and internally since we are a dry campus,” Knox said. He said among key issues would be where to sell beer and wine at Bowman Gray, as well as how long to sell it during a game.
“I’m not sure it will happen this year,” Knox said.
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.”
Likely early adopters
The law expands alcohol sales and consumption to all campus stadiums, arenas and athletics facilities. It does not apply to community colleges.
Beer, wine and mixed drinks would be available at non-sports events if vendors have the correct permits.
The law requires alcohol to be sold in designated areas that allow vendors to control sales, including checking for identification to prevent sales to underage fans. Universities could set up designated alcohol-consumption and alcohol-free areas.
Legislative opponents of the bill have raised concerns about families being exposed to alcohol consumption by more fans, some of whom could become belligerent, and about alcohol sales becoming such a revenue driver that it may affect or dictate other public-policy issues.
Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Buncombe, said it is likely that East Carolina University, N.C. State and UNC Chapel Hill would be early adopters of new or expanded sales.
Bubba Cunningham, UNC’s athletic director, told the News & Observer of Raleigh on Wednesday that the university trustees “support this effort.”
N.C. State athletic officials have said permitting beer and wine sales at Carter-Finley could encourage fans to remain in the stadium at halftime rather than return to their tailgates.
Appalachian State University, N.C. A&T State University and UNC Greensboro have had athletics-department personnel at committee meetings on the bill. Of the 15 state universities, only UNC Pembroke has not indicated support for the bill, according to bill sponsors.
Knox has said he has heard from individuals supportive of beer and wine sales at Bowman Gray, as well as those opposed. He said he wouldn’t rule out sales during basketball games.
“From a revenue standpoint, it is something worth discussing,” Knox said.
“We will do what is in the best interest of the university, its students, fans and supporters, and make the best decision for all parties.”
The bill has been amended to deal with “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.