Oct 2, 2021 - Food and Drink

You can now buy liquor bottles on Sundays in Charlotte

great wagon road exterior

great wagon road exterior

A groundbreaking new law allows North Carolina distilleries to sell their bottles on Sundays.

The big picture: The bill — HB 890 — largely flew under the radar in Charlotte, which has just two distilleries within city limits, but it’s a huge deal. You can now purchase liquor in closed containers on Sundays so long as it’s from a distillery.

  • Liquor! On Sundays! In the South!

The Bible Belt sure has loosened in recent years with the passing of North Carolina’s Brunch Bill, among other reforms to help local distilleries.

  • HB 890 — which also allows for online orders from ABC stores — received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.
  • Great Wagon Road Distilling owner Ollie Mulligan tells me he knew the bill was in the works, but didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did. “I totally forgot about it … then I realized holy s–t this is awesome.”

How it works: Great Wagon Road in NoDa already sells bottles inside its distillery and bar from Tuesday through Saturday, in addition to its beer, food and cocktail menu. Now it’s able to sell bottles on Sunday, too.

  • Mulligan plans to have a separate line for those purchasing bottles to-go, a line for beer and a line for cocktails to help with possible waits. But, he admits, “I like that problem. Lines are good.”
  • Charlotte’s other distillery, Seven Jars, will remain closed on Sundays.

Why it matters: ABC stores have long been the only place to buy liquor bottles in North Carolina. Until now, distilleries could only sell during hours the ABC was open.

  • ABC stores are closed on Sundays, and will remain closed even with this bill.
  • That means spots like Great Wagon Road are the only shops in town you can buy liquor that day. (Last-minute game day restock, anyone?)
ollie mulligan great wagon road
Ollie Mulligan’s distillery and bar is located at 610 Anderson Street in NoDa. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

“It’s like watching a kid grow up,” Mulligan says about the evolution of North Carolina’s liquor laws.

Flashback: In his early days of Great Wagon Road, Mulligan had to split his business into separate entities: a distillery that distributed spirits through ABC stores and on tours, and a cocktail bar called Broken Spoke.

  • “(People) were laughing at North Carolina,” Mulligan says of its outdated laws at the time.
  • After the Brunch Bill, he moved into a new space in NoDa and merged the businesses, serving his Rúa whiskey straight from the barrel and adding a food menu, too.

On one hand, he tells me, “It’s absolutely fantastic to watch it evolve so quickly.” On the other, he hollers over the phone: “It’s about time!”

By the numbers: Mulligan believes this bill, which effectively makes Great Wagon Road a liquor monopoly on Sundays, will have a big impact on revenue.

  • In-person bottle sales currently account for about $5,000 to $7,000 in revenue a month, he tells me. He expects that to increase by 25% over time.

“It’s going to take time for people to realize they can do it … because for the last 100 years, they couldn’t,” Mulligan says of the adjustment both distilleries and customers will have to make with this bill. “Now you can.”

704 gin great wagon road
In addition to its popular Rúa whiskey, Great Wagon Road distills its own gin (pictured here) and vodka. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Editor’s note: This piece was first published Sept. 16, 2021 and last updated on Oct. 2, 2021.

Related Axios story: Charlotte liquor stores are selling out of Tito’s and tequila


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