Click through the Carolina Panthers’ website, and you’ll prominently see the phrase “Two States. One Team.” emblazoned at the bottom of every page. This unifying sentiment apparently doesn’t apply to the team’s relationship with hometown breweries, as the NoDa Brewing Company is finding out the hard way.
Instead, the team’s “Keep Pounding” motto more aptly applies to what the team and especially concessionaire Delaware North are doing, both to the wallets of patrons and the overall concept of consumer choice at Bank of America Stadium.
There will be significantly fewer places to buy NoDa beer at the stadium this year. And when you find it, the price will be significantly higher.
How could such a fluid relationship between NoDa and the Panthers go so far out of bounds?
Simply put, blame money. Complicating matters further is Delaware North’s proclivity toward a legal loophole informally known as “Sunday pricing.”
Before we start in with state statutes, let’s talk about how you’re about to pay a lot more for your gameday beers.
In the last year, higher costs of raw materials caused NoDa to raise prices of their canned beers by 3%. Assuming the Panthers understandably passed this new expense along to stadium beer purchasers, we’d see concession stand prices for NoDa cans modestly increase from last year’s $9 to a still-somewhat-reasonable $9.27 a can.
Instead, buyers of Hop, Drop ‘n Roll or Jam Session will get sacked in the pocket. The new price per can at the concession stand this season? $10.75. That’s up a massive 19% from last year, all to cover a 3% brewery price increase.
Talk of steep price increases really won’t matter much if Panthers patrons can’t even find any NoDa beers to buy.
The brewery has seen their stadium presence slashed from six sections last year down to three this year, one on each stadium level. That’s cans only, too; NoDa drafts have completely been removed from the equation.
It’s not just NoDa affected here, as Delaware North is largely moving away from draft and towards cans and aluminum bottles. This actually makes solid business sense, as it’s much easier for stadium volunteers to open a pint can or bottle versus providing a proper draft pour. Results of this shift should speed up concession lines and limit wasted product.
So now, let’s talk “Sunday pricing.”
In a nutshell, state law says beer cannot be sold at one price to one account, with another account enjoying a different rate. If a product’s price is changed, it must be made available to anyone making orders that day.
But what if there’s only one order being made that day? Admittedly, it’d be a fairly sizeable account, like Bank of America Stadium. Well, then a price drop would be legal, because no other sales were committed.
Going into this season, Delaware North informed NoDa that their costs were too high. Unless those could come down by a double-digit percentage, cans of beer would be relegated to Suite level only. Negotiations continued for weeks, with NoDa refusing to treat one account preferentially versus all their others. Ultimately, NoDa is being carried at Panthers games, albeit with half of their usual presence.
I reached out to representatives from Delaware North with many questions.
By how much was NoDa requested to drop their prices? Were similar requests made of any other outfits? What is the annual sponsorship rates for vendors, and what benefits are received?
Below is Delaware North’s response to those questions, in its entirety.
“We offer fans more than 100 different beers, ciders and adult sodas making Bank of America Stadium one of the top 4 NFL stadiums for beer selection. Our goal is, and will always be, to provide the best possible game day food and drink for all of our guests.”
It’s true, the Panthers were rated two years ago as the fourth-best NFL stadium for craft beer fans. Since then, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has seen its once-ubiquitous presence relegated to the Club level. Now, NoDa Brewing Company has had its availability cut in half. Big-beer distributors exert more control on tap lists than they’ve had in years.
Delaware North may be behind these recent difficulties, but the buck stops with the Carolina Panthers.
How do they feel about the team name being tied to underhanded tactics? Requests for comment from the Panthers fell on deaf ears.
Local breweries employ hundreds of Charlotteans, and have an estimated billion-dollar impact on the local economy. I know, that’s small potatoes compared to the Panthers’ 2016 valuation of $1.56 billion. Fans of local craft breweries go to Panthers games too, and I doubt they’re too pleased to see their favorite craft cans going away because of pricing politics.
The Panthers may be one team representing two states, but they’re doing a poor job representing their own hometown beer scene.
NoDa Brewing Company cans are currently found at Bank of America Stadium in the Markets in sections 139 and 531, and the club-level Beer & Bacon.