Did Wicked Weed Sell Out … or Did We?

Parker Cains Wicked Weed Did We Sell Out

The purchase of Wicked Weed for distribution “opportunities” now proves this is a state wide issue. This is an Economic Development opportunity for Charlotte.

As many of you know by now, a favorite Asheville brewery and tap room has officially sold to Anheuser-Busch. There are those who feel that this is a sellout position, and that the owners capitalized on Anheuser-Busch’s push to take over Craft Freedom. At this point, many of you are wondering how this relates back to Charlotte, or if I am going to take a strong position on Wicked Weed capitalizing on their right to make a profit from someone who wants to buy their brand. That’s neither my place or my style.

I am a strong believer in keeping Charlotte’s relationship with the state intact. Its proven time and time again to be detrimental to Charlotte if our relationship sours.  My campaign stance in running for Charlotte City Council is to do right by the city and that will require working with the state rather than against it.

Insert Craft Freedom. I watched John Marrino (Olde Mecklenburg Brewery) speak not too long ago about why he was fighting state legislation capping barrel production at 25,000 barrels before requiring working through distributors. His lobby was sound and simple with respect to why he should be able to self-distribute rather than work through another local or national distributor.

  • Local Distributors can take upwards of 18-30% cut of all inventory, effectively lowering his margin as a business owner, or requiring a price hike to consumers (us).
  • If he can increase production, he can hire more people
  • If he can hire more people, he increases tax revenue
  • If he can scale independently he can go to market regionally, creating an even larger company that would be based out of Charlotte. More jobs.

I see no downside to a local Charlotte entrepreneur growing his or her business. Especially as the OMB team was planning to open two new locations in the state.  OMB backed out of the expansion plans because they would have immediately been over the 25,000-barrel limit. Unfortunately, as business owners they need to make fiscally responsible decisions and staying under that limit allows OMB to continue business as usual given current legislature thwarting growth opportunities on all fronts.

The Craft Freedom bill had been months in the making (if not longer). The new barrel cap for the bill was raised twice settling on 200,000 barrels before heading to our friends in the North Carolina General Assembly.  The bill was introduced with a head of steam and no one could imagine that the bill would fail.

H.B. 500 was a larger bill in which only a portion of it was the “Craft Freedom” barrel limit. As it read originally with the 200,000 barrel limit it was defeated 119 votes (Ayes: 35 to Noes: 84). It passed on the second attempt only after restoring the limit to 25,000 barrels (Ayes 95 to Noes: 25).

Roll Call – Which NCGA Reps voted Yay/Nay on H.B. 500 (Craft Freedom Bill) – Original Reading

During a recent coffee at the Common Market in Plaza-Midwood I overheard an interesting opinion: “Well the Lobbyists from the large distributors got involved and it didn’t stand a chance.” Well, what most don’t seem to be investigating is that even lobbyists need a business case. Everything I have heard indicates that their sales pitch was this:

 “The only two breweries with a possibility of being affected by this legislation are in Charlotte. Why would we pass state legislation for one city….”

The people of the City of Charlotte continue to support the craft beer industry, notably OMB and NoDa, enabling the capacity of each to prosper. There are several local craft breweries that have worked tirelessly to open new taprooms and distribution facilities, hired people, and given us all a place to hang out and be social. It’s what makes Charlotte so incredibly uniqueThe bill now heads to court for political cronyism, which only hurts the breweries spending time fighting for opportunity instead of expanding operations.

Now, bring Wicked Weed back into the picture. While many people believe that Wicked Weed sold out , they were quoted to have done so in a national publication Business Insider, as looking for opportunities for greater distribution capacity. It might just be me, but I read into the comments that they didn’t want to take up the fight with the state.  If they got too close to the cap organically it would be a disadvantage for them to put themselves on the market and they would have to go for less than market value (i.e. bad business).

Let me be perfectly clear.  I am NOT anti-distribution, I am simply a pro Charlotte economic development advocate. There is a place for local, national and international breweries to bring people their favorite beer across the country via distribution companies. Competition is healthy, so bringing spirits from across the globe to our Charlotte pubs, common markets and grocery stores is a benefit to our citizens.

I also believe we should focus on enabling our local businesses to thrive. It’s part of our diverse culture and paramount for our cities culture and identity. We enable small businesses across the city and right now one of our flourishing industries is facing adversity. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of fighting the state, but if we were make a stand, this issue would a great place to start. Think about this; When a brewery sells, the possibility that local production stays local diminishes. This has a grossly adverse reaction on our local economy and potentially removes the jobs, tax revenue, and opportunity that comes with being a locally owned and operated company.

 The purchase of Wicked Weed for distribution “opportunities” now proves this is a state wide issue. This is an economic development opportunity for our City Council to stake a flag in the ground to say, “we support our local businesses”. This flag represents one of the five core focus areas that Charlotte City Council should be focused on today.  I think it’s an opportunity to lead the state in the right direction and put Charlotte back on the right track economically, rather than pick a frivolous fight for personal political gain.

Will we ever know if Wicked Weed capitalized on their opportunity, or simply didn’t want to battle the state legislature?  Likely not, but putting a limit on our local businesses is not an issue I support or want to see pop up in Charlotte as a trend.

As always, if anyone would like to discuss this over coffee (or beers!) please visit the website (www.parkercains.com) and fill out the form you are interested to have a conversation about the topic.

“I don’t need to be right, to do right for our community.”