Orange Slices - July 23
Press Releases
Written by Chapel Hill North Carolina   
Monday, July 29, 2019 12:20 PM

A weekly update of news in our North Carolina communities. Featuring Scott Maitland: Businessman, Family Man, Crusader

Maitland: Businessman, Family Man, Crusader

There are as many versions of the American dream as there are Americans, so Scott Maitland had his as well. Born in Whittier, California, Scott sought to make his mark on a bigger canvas. He served honorably in the military, received a degree in law, became a father and a husband, and then – in a surprise twist – found himself making blueberry beer in small college town called Chapel Hill.


Chapel Hill Felt Like Home

Life is full of surprises, but then so many dreams surprise us – even the dreamers themselves. “I’ve wanted to live in the South since I was a teenager,” he said. “I was lucky enough to go to West Point and then, after I got out of the army, I got a full scholarship to law school at Carolina. I’ve been here ever since.”

Now Scott is a businessman, restaurateur, and an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at UNC-Chapel Hill. 


A Vision for Franklin Street

It was while he was still in law school that Scott made his first mark in Chapel Hill. In 1996, he founded Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery. T.G.I. Fridays had plans to move into the space, but Scott could not abide by that.

"I had no real money or experience at the time, but I was not going to stand by and let a TGI Friday's take over," says Maitland. He didn’t want the most famous intersection in North Carolina to look like Anytown U.S.A. Thanks to Scott, it doesn’t.

After opening, TOPO, as it’s known, quickly became a favorite of students and locals alike, especially on game days. Its beers, most of them dubbed with UNC-friendly names like Ram's Head IPA and Kenan Lager, consistently win awards at North Carolina and national competitions. It’s one of only three breweries in the world with two platinum medals from the World Beer Championships.

A second venture, Top of the Hill Distillery, makes TOPO Vodka, Gin and Whiskey. With his partner Esteban McMahon, TOPO is the first exclusively local and certified organic distillery in the South.

At press time, his plans call for moving the distillery to a bigger home, one county over. But Chapel Hill will still be center stage for his restaurant, his family and his legislative agenda.


Legislative Agenda

Yes, ever the dreamer, he has a legislative agenda, too.

Maitland’s experience with the restaurant and distillery put him in the position to be a key driver behind Senate Bill 155, also called the “Brunch Bill,” which was introduced in 2017. Maitland said the bill’s primary purpose was to support craft distilleries.

“Scott Maitland is an incredible advocate for the hospitality industry,” Lynn Minges, President and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, says. “He’s given selflessly to advance meaningful and much needed alcohol reform in our state. As a result of his leadership, we have been successful in the passage of the brunch bill, which allows alcohol to be sold before noon in most jurisdictions across the state.”

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the “Brunch Bill” into law June 30, 2017.

Scott’s most recent lobbying effort is equally ambitious and important to craft distilleries around the state.

On Tuesday, July 16, the North Carolina Senate passed SB 290, allowing distilleries in the state to sell mixed drinks. The bill also lifts a cap that had limited annual sales to five bottles per person. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.

Maitland says the changes level the regulatory playing field for craft distillers, treating them more like the state’s craft breweries and wineries. Current law allows distilleries to serve quarter-ounce tastings and sell up to five bottles, per customer, per year to people who take a tour of their facility. All other purchases require a trip to the ABC store, and distillers say it can sometimes be difficult to get the government-run stores to stock their products.

“We are grateful to supporters like Scott who helped to secure 26 major reforms to the state's outdated Alcohol Beverage Control laws,” said Minges. 

But Maitland’s vision is no different from those who would oppose his ideas: he sees entrepreneurship as essential to the future prosperity of rural, small, and mid-sized communities.  

 “I love the people, the culture, the energy here,” he says. “It’s progressive but hasn’t forgotten its past. I immediately felt at home when I arrived. I love Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but I also love the state of North Carolina.”

It’s people like Scott Maitland who keep the culture and energy alive. With a Kenan Lager in hand, Scott, we toast you.