You may soon be able to enjoy a cocktail at your favorite North Carolina distillery.

Matching bills filed in the state Senate and House this week would liberate distilleries from a plethora of state regulations and would be an important step in updating the state’s outdated ABC laws, supporters say.

Introduced by Representatives Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Senator Rick Gunn, R-Alamance and Guilford, longtime advocates of overhauling the ABC system, the legislation would permit distilleries to serve beer, wine, and spirits on-site and eliminate the requirement that bars purchase local liquors at ABC stores. Current regulations forbid bars from buying spirits directly from distilleries, limit customers to purchasing only five bottles a year from a distillery, and block distilleries from serving mixed drinks on their premises.

Distillery owners say these changes are long overdue.

“Our regulations regarding distilleries were written decades ago and don’t reflect the modern view of how distilleries should operate,” says Gentry Lassiter of Lassiter Distilling Company. 

Lassiter says that allowing distilleries to serve mixed drinks will enable them to operate more like breweries and wineries, a crucial step toward helping locally made spirits get widespread attention. Currently, distilleries can only offer samples, so prospective customers who tour them cannot get the full experience, Lassiter says.

“Most people drink spirits in cocktails,” he says. “This will bring us more to parity with beer and wine.” 

Customers are often hesitant to buy spirits they haven’t tried before, and ABC stores are reticent to stock products that won’t sell. Allowing cocktail sales will help distillers introduce their products to customers while also growing their brand. 

“We certainly don’t expect to do a tremendous amount of business when selling mixed drinks,” says Johnathan Blitz, a co-owner of Mystic Farm & Distilling in Durham. “But what we do expect is for it to help retailers discover us.”

Blitz is also an advocate of the provision permitting bars to circumvent the ABC middleman—a notoriously lengthy process—and order directly through local distilleries.

“I’m actually a huge supporter of the ABC system, and most distillers are,” he says. “This just helps us be an even better partner for ABC. Once retailers are getting some of our products from us, they’re gonna add it to their weekly order.”

“We feel that this is a really incredible bill,” Lassiter says. “It answers anything we could possibly ask for in this session.”

The bills passed their first reading in each chamber and were referred to committees.