Top of the Hill owner Scott Maitland had a lot to celebrate last week.
The same day that his son Andrew was born, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that allows distilleries to sell one bottle of liquor per person, per year
“The final bill passed on Thursday, five minutes after my son was born,” he said. “So I kind of felt like I was giving birth to twins.”
The Top of the Hill distillery on Franklin Street sells craft spirits, such as whiskey, vodka and gin. It is now allowed to sell some of its liquor at the distillery and celebrated with an open house.
The first legal liquor bottle sold outside of the ABC system since 1909 was sold to North Carolina state senator Rick Gunn Thursday morning. Gunn sponsored the bill and helped get it passed.
“We’re super excited,” said TOPO distiller Keith Crissman. “We feel that we now have a chance to get our spirits out to the public”
Before the law was passed, all liquor sales were handled by the ABC commission, meaning anyone wanting to purchase liquor would have to do so at an ABC store.
Despite only being allowed to sell one bottle per person per year, Crissman said he thinks the new laws will make it easier for people to try craft spirits.
“People recognize the quality that craft spirits can bring,” he said. “They maybe want to pick something different than their parents or grandparents drank.”
Maitland said he expects the new laws to help with local tourism because it will make distilleries a more attractive place to visit.
“Whether people are touring breweries, wineries or distilleries, but also diaries, they’ll say ‘hey I can come, I check it out and I can take a bottle home with me’ and that’s a big thing,” he said.
He said he thinks the next logical change is to allow a person to buy one bottle of each product per year, but said after fighting for years to get the current law passed, he would like to take a break and run his business.
For Maitland, the birth of his child and the expansion of his business is something he’s experienced before.
“I got the opportunity to buy (the distillery) right when my daughter was born, so I was reviewing documents while I was feeding her as a week old infant,” he said. “I think it’s really interesting that now Andrew is born and a week later we’re having this event.”http://chapelboro.com/news/topo-distillery-celebrates-new-law/
State lawmakers addressed reporters at Chapel Hill’s Top of the Hill Distillery on Tuesday to celebrate a new law that allows distilleries in North Carolina to sell bottles of liquor directly to customers.
In his opening remarks, North Carolina Sen. Rick Gunn, a Republican representing Alamance and Randolph Counties, expressed excitement about the new business opportunities made possible by the passage into law of House Bill 909.
“We have seen the wine industry explode in the state of North Carolina,” said Gunn. “We’ve seen craft brewers accelerate in their business models, and their locations. And now we have an incredible emerging market in our distilleries. These are individuals that are entrepreneurs.”
Gunn called local distillers “visionaries” – risk-takers who have “put it on the line” to create jobs, a tax base, and “an incredible product” to North Carolina.
He was joined by three Republicans from the N.C. House.
District 10 Rep. John Bell of Goldsboro talked about how the new law helps some of his Lenoir County constituents, in their efforts to open a distillery in downtown Kinston.
“The big thing you need to realize is that, yes, this is growing an industry,” said Bell, “ but we also changed laws, to let this industry grow, that haven’t been changed since Prohibition.”
Bell said that small businesses such as Top of the Hill play a big role in driving the state’s economy. He praised bipartisan work in the legislature to get the bill passed after a three-year push.
He added that he hopes to see North Carolina give Tennessee and Kentucky some strong competition in the whiskey market.
Rep. Brian Brown, a co-sponsor of HB 909, said that while his Pitt County district doesn’t have any distilleries yet, it wasn’t hard to sell him on the bill.
“Rep. Bell came up to me and asked me what I thought about this bill,” said Brown, adding, to laughter in room, “and I think, at the time, I was actually holding a sweet-potato vodka [from a local distiller]. And I said: ‘I’m on board.’”
On a more serious note, Brown said he was happy to be part of easing regulations to make doing business a little easier for North Carolina distillers.
Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County, along with Bell, was a primary sponsor of the bill. He recalled that when he was elected in 2010, Rutherford’s unemployment was up at 19 percent, due to the demise of the textile and furniture industries there. He summed up his support for HB909 by saying: “You know, guys, to me, it’s about jobs.”
Hager added that this law will mean a lot to people hit the hardest since the recession, particularly in rural areas.
In urban Chapel Hill, the new way of doing business will be significant as well, according to Top of the Hill owner Scott Maitland, who spoke to WCHL after the press conference. He said he’s excited to offer bottles of his vodka, whiskey and gin directly to customers for the first time ever.
It beats the old way of just hoping that impressed tourists will head directly over to the ABC store after a tasting. Research, he said, shows that’s rarely the case. And now, he can try new things, and take risks, unhampered by cost-prohibitive marketing through the ABC system.
“One of the issues in North Carolina has been the ability to make some of the truly innovative craft products – interesting and different – and be able to sell that,” said Maitland.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 909 into law this past Friday. The new law takes effect Oct. 1.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-lawmakers-gather-at-top-of-the-hill-to-laud-passage-of-liquor-law/
Both chambers of the North Carolina legislature have passed a bill with a number of measures related to the sale of alcohol. If the bill becomes law, one of those measures will allow North Carolina distilleries to sell their alcoholic products for consumption off premises.
Hear the story below:
Visitors to Top of the Hill distillery in Chapel Hill can watch the company’s production process from fermentation to finish. Giant stainless steel containers full of spirits in various stages of production tower over the clean concrete floor. Above, a maze of pipes wind across the ceiling.
At the end of the tour, visitors can get a taste of Top of the Hill’s vodka, whiskey or gin. But if they want to actually buy a bottle, owner Scott Maitland has to give them directions to the ABC store.
State law restricts the sale of alcoholic spirits for consumption off-site to ABC stores, which are run by the state or local Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Maitland says that law is holding back his businesses’ growth.
“It’s not like people leave the distillery so fired up that they’re going to drive right on over to the ABC system,” Maitland said. “Ninety-five percent of the people, when they are in the distillery, say they’re going to buy a bottle. But when we follow up, less than 30 percent actually buy.”
Maitland has been a vocal advocate of House Bill 909. The legislation would allow North Carolina distilleries to sell their spirits on-site for customers to drink elsewhere–albeit, not very much.
“We’re talking one bottle per person, per year,” Maitland said.
Even with these limitations on sales at the distillery, Maitland said he believes the bill creates an important marketing opportunity that will allow him to grow his consumer base and add employees.
“Although the sales are important for sure, we think the biggest impact of this is the repeat sales and the increased brand awareness,” he said.
Some legislators who opposed House Bill 909 worry the bill is the beginning of a slippery slope towards the privatization of alcohol retail in the state. Several house members also say they are frustrated with the addition of multiple provisions by the Senate. The bill would also completely restrict the production, consumption and sale of powdered alcohol in the state, as well as loosen restrictions on the sale of large containers of hard cider and wine known as growlers.
House Bill 909 is on its way to the governor’s desk.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/bill-will-clear-way-for-bottle-sales-at-local-distillery/
CHAPEL HILL – They are the establishments which have shaped our local business economy, each in a unique way—A Southern Season, Mama Dip’s and Fitch Lumber, to name a few. The leaders and entrepreneurs behind these staples of the community were honored Wednesday as the inaugural class of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Business Hall of Fame.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce recognized 12 individuals during the gala at the Carolina Inn. The class included Ted and Edward Danziger of the Restaurateurs; Orville Camplbell of The Chapel Hill Weekly; and Frank Kenan of Kenan Oil and Kenan Transport.
To view Chapelboro’s complete gallery from the ceremony, click here.
Kenan’s son, Tom, spoke on behalf of his late father who led what was at one time the largest petroleum transportation company in the Southeast. A proud UNC alumnus, Kenan supported Carolina with generous donations throughout his lifetime.
“My father’s favorite words were, ‘The best speech is the shortest speech.’ So, I am not going to disappoint him tonight. He loved Chapel Hill; he loved this University; and he is still with us. I think he tells us what to do at least once a week,” Tom Kenan said.
A Southern Season started out as a one-man operation for tastemaker Michael Barefoot. Now it is one of the largest specialty-food retailers in the United States. Barefoot, who opened A Southern Season in 1975, attributes his success to the community’s loyalty.
“We didn’t create anything. We just planted a seed, and the local folks helped us grow it,” Barefoot said.
North Carolina State Senator Valerie Foushee was a presenter during the ceremony. She proudly welcomed Mildred Council, known as “Mama Dip,” a trailblazer in serving Southern cuisine, to the stage.
Council was greeted with evening’s first standing ovation.
“For her part in putting Chapel Hill on the culinary map and her generous support of local organizations, and her leadership in the minority business community, we proudly induct Mildred “Mama Dip” Council into the Business Hall of Fame,” Foushee said.
In 1976, Council opened Dip’s Country Kitchen with three employees and $64 to buy ingredients, according to the gala pamphlet. Decades later, her restaurant is still thriving, and Council said she hopes to expand.
“That is all I’ve ever done—is cook in my restaurant. It has really been successful. And I know so many of these people [fellow inductees]!”
WCHL’s own Jim Heavner was given a special introduction from Top of the Hill Proprietor Scott Maitland.
“Jim Heavner is Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s first media mogul,” Maitland said. “Parlaying a small town radio station into the flagship of a national sports broadcasting network, a cable TV company, an advertising circular, a university phone book publisher, and so much more.”
Heavner thanked his mentor, Sandy McClamroch, Chapel Hill’s longest-serving mayor and former owner of WCHL.
“As mayor of this town for eight years during the Civil Rights crisis, he set the standard for community service that we were expected to follow,” Heavner said. “He gave me the room to screw up and to learn how to do it. He changed my life. Sandy, thank you.”
Chamber President Aaron Nelson commented on the all-star class of business innovators.
“We are in a room with legends. It is incredible to hear the stories of the places where I take my children to now,” Nelson said. “The folks that started [those places] have forever shaped our community.”
Nelson added that the Chamber will induct three to four new members to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Hall of Fame annually.
Presenter Rick Steinbacher, UNC’s Senior Athletic Director and former Carolina football player, remarked on the other noteworthy attendees of the event.
“I got to my table and the ultimate surprise was that I was sharing a table with Sally Brown, wife of Coach Mack Brown [a former UNC Football Coach], one of the greatest teachers I ever had in my entire life. Welcome home, Sally,” Steinbacher said.
Full List Of Inductees:
WCHL’s own Jim Heavner
Stein, Bill, and Jesse Basnight Sr. of S.h. Basnight & Sons, INC
Michael Barefoot of Southern Season
Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s
Orville Camplbell of The Chapel Hill Weekly
Ted and Edward Danziger of Restaurateurs
Mickey Ewell of Chapel Hill Restaurant Group
R.B. and Jenny Fitch of Fitch Creations
Mac Fitch of Fitch Lumber and Hardware
George Wattes Hill, Sr. of Central Carolina Bank
Frank Kenan of Kenan Oil and Kenan Transport
Mel Rashkis of Mel Rashkis & Associateshttp://chapelboro.com/news/business/celebrating-the-inaugural-class-ch-carrboro-business-hof/
The Inter-Faith Counsel celebrated 50 years of service at the Friday Center Thursday, June 6 with smooth jazz, delicious food and drinks – catered by Carolina Catering and Top Of The Hill, respectively. Ron Stutts emceed the event and speakers included Reverend Robert Seymour and J. Freeman. The elegance of the event was impeccable and second to none, except to the illuminated hearts of those involved, apart, or a product of, the Inter-Faith Counsel.