Raleigh, N.C. — Right now, technically, there are no bars in North Carolina. Sure, there are some bar areas in restaurants and a category of thing called a private club, but no bars.
Rep. Susie Hamilton, D-New Hanover, would like to change that.
Current North Carolina alcohol laws say that, in order for a for-profit establishment to serve alcohol but no food, it must be a private club. Although the statute originally envisioned social organizations like Elks and veterans organizations, there are dives and corner watering holes across the state that are, by law, private clubs complete with a membership roll and bylaws.
"It's the dumbest law on the books, and it's selectively enforced," Hamilton said Wednesday. "We need to be treating business in a more modern way."
To fix what she sees as a problem, Hamilton has filed a bill to create a new category for pubs in state law. Restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol but are required to derive a certain percentage of their revenue from food sales.
Last summer, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission announced an initiative to curb violence at private clubs, saying it would more vigorously enforce membership rules that had fallen by the wayside in recent years.
Hamilton said that effort caused a stir at the time among businesses in her Wilmington-based district, but she said it seems to have already ebbed, leaving club owners with extra paperwork on their hands but little to show for it.
Her bill would allow pubs to serve alcohol and not food, if they occupied limited building space. There would be no membership rules for the new pub category in Hamilton's bill.
Allowing private clubs to convert to pubs, she said, would allow law enforcement to concentrate on real trouble spots.
But, she said, there was little prospect for the bill to move through the legislative process this year.