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Raleigh area distilleries are growing, now with Sunday sales

Vodka at Aristotle Spirits

NC distilleries can now sell bottles of their spirits on Sundays and some holidays, making it easier to drink local.

The immediate changes: House Bill 890, signed in September, went into effect Oct. 1 for Sunday sales, making this week the first Sunday you could pick up a bottle at a Raleigh area distillery.

The new rules give local distillers an edge on the state-controlled ABC stores, which are closed on Sundays and holidays.

The new hours are 12-9 p.m. on Sundays and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on certain holidays: New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day (note Sunday hours apply when the holidays fall on Sundays).

Why it matters: The Sunday sales and other changes in HB 890 further loosened strict state rules for distillers, though it’s not the only move in the last couple years to make NC more craft spirits-friendly. Before SB 290 in July 2019, distilleries couldn’t sell mixed drinks on site or sell more than 5 bottles.

Chris Powers, co-owner of Trophy Brewing, which recently opened Young Hearts Distilling, said the new state rules bring distilleries closer to parity with the beer and wine industries. 

The team at Trophy always envisioned having a distillery and brewery, but loosened state rules in recent years made it possible for Young Hearts Distilling, Downtown Raleigh’s first distillery, to become a reality.

Sunday sales might require some education of spirits consumers who aren’t yet used to availability of Sunday bottle purchases, he said, but it’s an opportunity for locals and tourism. “It is kind of a big deal for us,” Chris said.

Distillers seeing the impact of HB 890 already also include a new Garner distiller, Aristotle Spirits:

“We had been open on Sundays prior to this with a fairly lukewarm result, but knew If Sunday sales ever happened it would be best for us to have some previous expectation we would be open Sunday already,” said founder and head distiller Jake Howland.

“We did seriously consider closing on Sunday but decided to try and stick it out. The change to have Sunday sales was immediate and highly impactful. Sunday had really been a day where we might break even at best previously and this past weekend we had one of our best Sundays ever.”

What could be next: HB 890 also allows local governments to create social districts, or designated outdoor areas where alcoholic beverages from certain businesses in the district could be consumed. The city (or county, if outside of municipal boundaries) would set the boundaries and manage the social district. [Section 20.3]

Brandon McCraney, of Olde Raleigh Distillery, said they’ve contacted the town of Zebulon about establishing a social district near the distillery to enhance their customers’ experience and increase foot traffic to other local businesses. For now, they anticipate sales from Sundays will increase, as weekends are the busiest times for the distillery.

Raleigh area distilleries are growing, with three opening in 2021 alone. Here’s where you can find locally-crafted spirits (and pick up a bottle on Sundays!).

Aristotle Spirits

Opened: June 2021

Spirits: Aristotle Spirits vodka, a 100% malted barley and charcoal-filtered vodka; Philosopher Gin, a clean-tasting spirit with a hint of juniper. [more]

What’s next: Head distiller Jake Howland said the Sunday changes prompted a look at their product offerings. By the end of the year, they plan to offer a barrel-aged gin and a bourbon.

Location: 105 Rand Mill Road, Garner

Hours: The Lab Bar is open 5-10 p.m. Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays, 1-11 p.m. Saturdays and 1-8 p.m. Sundays.

Olde Raleigh Distillery

Opened: January 2021

Spirits: Their flagship spirit is a 93 proof blended bourbon. [more]

What’s next: A small-batch vodka and gin are in the works, plus the fourth batch of their bourbon:

Location: 209 N Arendell Ave, Zebulon.

Hours: 4-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 12-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12-8 p.m. Sundays.

Young Hearts Distilling

Opened: August 2021

Spirits: Currently Young Hearts vodka and gin bottles are available for purchase. The focus is on botanical-forward spirits, a specialty of distiller Mena Killough.

What’s next: An agave spirit is coming soon and an amari could be on shelves this fall.

Location: 225 S. Wilmington St. in Downtown Raleigh.

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4-10 p.m. Sundays. The Downtown Raleigh distillery recommends reservations.

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Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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