North Carolina businessman can't sell his own beer in his own restaurants

Two years ago, Greensboro businessman Marty Kotis had an idea. He’d start a brewery to complement his handful of restaurant properties in town. The Pig Pounder Brewery (named for a beloved beer from a now-defunct restaurant he set out to recreate) now occupies a 3,700 sq-ft building and is ready to produce five microbrews for local customers.

But those people will not be customers at Kotis’ restaurants, as he envisioned. Because of a post-Prohibition law, the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) says it cannot issue him the necessary permits to serve his own beer at his own restaurants.

Marty Kotis tells FOX8 the Pig Pounder Brewery has been in the works for two years. When they recently went to finalize permits, the NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission could not issue the paperwork.

“We’re scheduled to open the Pig Pounder the first week of June, and right now we can’t get a permit,” Kotis said simply.

ABC Commission Director of Public Affairs Agnes Stevens said the law dates back to post-prohibition. The goal was to prevent big alcohol manufacturers from becoming corrupt or forcing retailers to only sell certain alcoholic brands and products.

In North Carolina, as the ABC spokesperson explains it, there’s a three-tiered permitting system that keeps manufacturers, distributors and retailers separate to prevent them from colluding to keep out competition. It obviously wasn’t meant to keep a boutique, local brewery from supplementing the restaurant selection at restaurants owned by the brewer himself.

Here are Kotis’ options, one of which requires him to completely forgo one of his restaurant properties to be able to use the brewery, which he built with a $1.5 million investment:

“One option is to agree not to sell any of our beer in any of our restaurants ever. However, we could sell it other places. And to do that we would have to have a special exemption from the ABC Commission,” he said.

“The other option would be to transfer our assets over from the other companies, the other restaurant companies, into one entity and we would have to limit ourselves to only three restaurants plus the brewery.”

That would mean closing YoDaddy Desert bar in Greensboro, he said.

And, if they don’t figure it out with the state?

He said they would be forced to take future plans for restaurant and brewery endeavors outside the state if they can’t resolve this issue.

Heckuvajob, regulators.