NC lawmakers want to legalize happy hour

North Carolina is one of just eight states that don't currently allow happy-hour drink sales. State lawmakers want to change that.

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Laura Leslie
, WRAL capitol bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers are trying to legalize happy hour.
State legislators introduced bills this week aimed at loosening what some bar owners consider antiquated liquor laws.

House Bill 1135 seeks to allow cities and counties to decide whether to allow happy-hour drink sales. Meanwhile, House Bill 1108 would do away with the state law that requires bar patrons to give personal information to imbibe.

North Carolina is one of just eight states that don't currently allow happy-hour drink specials. State lawmakers banned them in the 1980s, when the state was cracking down on drunk driving.

State Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, said it's time to revisit the idea. His bill would not make happy hour legal statewide. It would leave it up to cities and counties to decide whether to pass ordinances allowing and regulating them.

Saine said the past two years have been tough on bars and restaurants, and this could help them. “The idea is to get people in for a drink,” he said. “They stay, they eat a meal, they spend more money instead of maybe doing that at home. And it's good for the restaurant or hotel.”

Another bill filed this week would do away with the state law that classifies bars as private clubs.

Under current law, bars that sell alcohol but not food are required to charge membership fees and obtain and keep customers' names and addresses. The law dates back decades. It was an attempt to keep a lid on sales of alcohol to the general public.

The proposal would create a new type of alcohol permit that would not include those requirements.

Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Henderson, the bill's sponsor, said he spoke with bar owners and managers across the state who are frustrated by the existing law. “I see no benefit to the state for its continued existence,” he said in a statement. “In fact, it only adds unnecessary burdens to small businesses and additional costs to customers. It is ripe for repeal.”

Legislative leaders said they want to end this session by Independence Day after last year's record-breaking session. It’s not clear whether they'll have time to take these bills up this year.

“It’s time to hear from my colleagues and to debate the merits of this next step in modernizing North Carolina’s ABC laws,” Moffitt said.


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