New law allows in-stand beer sales at DBAP, other stadiums

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 06:49 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory this week signed into law a bill that loosens the rules governing alcohol sales in stadiums, to allow organizations like the Durham Bulls to have vendors to sell beer in the stands.
The bill was one of 39 McCrory signed on Wednesday. It passed the N.C. House last month on a 73-45 vote and the N.C. Senate last week with a 42-5 margin.
Bulls General Manager Mike Birling confirmed that the team, which operates the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the city, will take advantage of the new rules, most likely later this summer.
“I don’t see us trying to do something until at least probably once we get into July, [or] maybe August,” he said Thursday.
Until Wednesday’s signing, in-stand sales of beer were only legal in one North Carolina sports venue: Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
At other stadiums, the state allowed beer sales only in concession areas.
But the new rules, which went into effect as soon as the governor signed the bill, allow stadiums that seat more 3,000 to use in-stand vendors.
Vendors aren’t allowed to “verbally shout or hawk” their wares, so there will be no cries of “cold beer!” ringing through the stands of the DBAP and other affected stadiums.
The vendors are, however, allowed to carry trays and other sales paraphernalia, so fans likely won’t find it difficult to figure out what’s on sale.
City officials, apprised that the bill was nearing approval, inquired about the Bulls’ intentions June 5. Bulls Vice President George Habel within minutes responded that the team would be taking advantage of the new rules.
Habel and Birling both said the main reason for doing so is to alleviate lines in the DBAP’s concession areas.
They intend “it to be a customer-service thing,” Birling said, noting that for now most of the DBAP’s concessions are behind the stands and don’t have a direct line of sight to the diamond.
The general manager added that he does “like the compromise” legislators struck by forbidding shouted sales pitches.
Minor League Baseball teams throughout the state trade on having a “family atmosphere,” Birling said. “That’s something we’re proud of, and we want to keep it that way. But [in-stand sales] will make things easier on the fans.”
The Bulls also manage the historic Durham Athletic Park, but the measure won’t affect anything that happens there. The old stadium has only about 2,000 seats and thus doesn’t qualify for in-stand sales.
The bill was introduced April 8 by a group of House members that included House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham. It drew opposition from groups like the Christian Action League, which argued that allowing in-stand sales would promote under-aged drinking.
The House approval vote saw the chamber’s Republicans split 38-37 on the measure, with the balance of the favoring votes coming from Democrats. 
Two of the chamber’s top three Republicans, Speaker Pro Temp Paul Stam, R-Wake, and Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, voted against the bill. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, didn’t participate in the vote, in accordance with chamber custom.
Locally, the measure drew support from Hall and fellow Durham Reps. Paul Luebke and Mickey Michaux. Orange County Rep. Val Foushee also supported it, but Rep. Verla Insko voted against.
All of the Durham and Orange House members are Democrats. Insko was one of eight Democrats to join the opposition.
In the Senate, Durham Sen. Floyd McKissick and Orange County Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird supported passage. Both are Democrats. Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, missed the vote.