Charlotte Craft Brewers Take Their Fight to Court

In a bid to win in court what they lost in the General Assembly, two Charlotte craft brewers sued the state of North Carolina Monday, arguing that their annual production cap is unconstitutional.

Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa breweries claim the state’s annual production cap and franchise law stifle competition, “thereby harming consumers by artificially inflating prices and reducing consumer choice,” according to documents filed in Wake County Superior Court.

The Charlotte brewers have spearheaded the so-called Craft Freedom fight, a bid to raise the 25,000-barrel cap on production before craft brewers must enter a distribution contract with a wholesaler.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who helped draft the complaint, called it “one of most significant economic liberty cases we’ve seen in the state in a long time.”

Last month a bill that would have raised the cap was gutted, essentially killing the provision before a vote. John Marrino, owner of Olde Mecklenburg, called it “outrageous” and “backroom politics.”

“I’m not sure the General Assembly is the best avenue to ensure the success of the micro-brewery industry in North Carolina,” he said at the time.

The brewers’ bill was opposed by the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers. Through its executives and political action committee, the wholesalers have given lawmakers nearly $1.5 million in political contributions in the last four years, according to Democracy North Carolina.

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