WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — On Thursday, Wilmington City leaders and state representatives toured breweries in our area to learn about the industry, and hear concerns from brewery owners.
There are now 19 breweries in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties, and the industry is continuing to grow. However, brewery owners say they are still restricted by outdated laws, and they hope local and state lawmakers can help.
“We’re here in the south, and frequently, manufacturers of alcohol are treated as the villains,” said Wrightsville Beach Brewery owner Jud Watkins.
Watkins says while things have improved over the past few years, there are still laws and restrictions that negatively affect his business.
“This year was a great year for craft brewers, we saw the federal tax rate get cut in half,” Watkins said. “Unfortunately, North Carolina still has one of the highest tax rates in the nation on the state level.”
On Thursday, lawmakers from the City of Wilmington and the state visited two breweries, Edward Teach, and the brand new New Anthem Beer Project facility. Their goal was to learn more about the growing industry, and hear concerns from owners.
“It’s a great industry. Not only the product they provide, but the number of people they employ, what they mean to our economy,” said Senator Harper Peterson.
According to a 2018 study by UNCW, Wilmington-area breweries employed upwards of 400 people. Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance president Jeremy Tomlinson says Wilmington is one of the fastest growing cities in the south for craft beer.
“We had 20-23 million dollars in craft beer sales, 1.5 million dollars in taxes that went back into the local community, and over 200,000 dollars was donated to local charitable organizations,” Tomlinson said.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says a few years back, the city created a zoning ordinance to allow breweries to be built and he wants to help them expand their industry even further.
“I’d like to sit down with them, have a list of items or issues that we can work on, and then sit down in a collaborative effort, work with the city council, county commissioners, and our state representatives to see what we can do to help these folks,” Mayor Saffo said.
The Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance says they will soon be launching an initiative to attract tourists to visit the Wilmington area specifically for the craft beer scene.