Lawmakers looking at House Bill that could allow Happy Hour in North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Things could be shaking up this legislative session. By this summer, lawmakers are hoping to make “Happy Hour” legal in North Carolina.
House Bill 94 would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol at a discounted price during certain hours of the day. North Carolina is one of only eight states that doesn’t allow happy hours including Oklahoma, Utah, Rhode Island, Vermont, Alaska, Indiana and Massachusetts.
“North Carolina has one of the most restrictive ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) systems in our nation- we’re only one of a handful of states where alcohol is still controlled by the state,” said Lynn Minges. Minges, who is the President and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, said the association has been working to put some important alcohol reforms in place over the last decade to help owners tap into more business. She added, “Happy hour is really just a marketing strategy, it’s a way to attract customers into a business during a time when they otherwise might be slow by offering discounts.”
For Carey Kidd who opened his restaurant, Element Gastropub, in Downtown Raleigh two years ago, he said it’s a boost many businesses support. Kidd said inflation has impacted their food, menu and rent prices, and added, “We’re dealing with a whole level of remote work where a lot of people don’t work downtown anymore… so anything that can keep people downtown, want to stay downtown– we’re all in for it.”
Restaurants like Kidd’s are able to offer all-day specials but not limited to certain hours of the day. Customers like Deon Spence agree that it could be beneficial for everyone. Spence said, “At least get more foot traffic and support the businesses, especially after the pandemic. Everyone is trying to thrive and recoup in this economy.”
Minges said the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is also working to make changes to how restaurants, bars and hotels can purchase alcohol. Minges said, “We’re trying to get some transparency in the system so that a business owner that is looking for particular liquor can make that purchase across anywhere in North Carolina.” She said businesses are currently limited to purchasing alcohol from only one assigned ABC board. If a product is out of stock, Minges said this means businesses are unable to find that product somewhere else where it may be in stock. There are about 170 ABC boards that operate stores across the state.
Minges said North Carolina has already loosened some alcohol laws. She said about 20 communities now have social districts and a ‘brunch bill’ allowed businesses to serve alcohol before noon on Sundays. Minges added, “About five or six years ago that was not allowed and critics cried out that that was going to make people drink more. In effect, we have not seen that.”
“I think if folks want to have a drink after work, they’re going to do that whether or not the price is impacted,” said the CEO.
If approved, the bill would go into effect this summer. Businesses that already sell alcohol would have to apply for a $100 permit.
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