Sober October is here, but new legislation is creating a buzz around the sale of alcoholic beverages in North Carolina. Effective Oct. 1, 2021, House Bill 890: ABC Omnibus Legislation (“the ABC Omnibus Act”), contains several major changes to North Carolina’s existing Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission laws. A few of the ABC Omnibus Act’s key components are discussed below.
Authorization of Social Districts
The ABC Omnibus Act expressly authorizes social districts where individuals may consume alcoholic beverages in certain outdoor areas. Counties and cities may adopt ordinances designating social districts. Several requirements for designation must be met, including, but not limited to:
- The city or county must clearly define the social district with signs posted conspicuously indicating the area included in the social district, and the days and hours during which alcoholic beverages may be consumed;
- The city or county must establish maintenance and management plans and post those plans on the city or county’s website; and
- The social district must be “maintained in a manner that protects the health and safety of the general public.”
Further, permittees located in or contiguous to a social district may sell alcoholic beverages for consumption within the district. The alcoholic beverages must be sold in containers that are not comprised of glass and contain no more than 16 fluid ounces. In addition, the containers must clearly identify the permittee, display a mark or logo that is unique to the social district, and display the statement: “Drink Responsibly – Be 21.”
Changes to ABC Store Sales
In an effort to bring the law into the 21st century, the ABC Omnibus Act allows ABC stores to accept online orders and payment. Orders placed online must be picked up in person by the individual who placed the order. The individual must be over 21 years of age and provide identification at pickup. Of note, the ABC Omnibus Act also authorizes ABC stores to sell refrigerated alcoholic beverages.
Establishment of the North Carolina Spiritous Liquor Advisory Council
The ABC Omnibus Act establishes the North Carolina Spirituous Liquor Advisory Council, which is tasked with growing and developing North Carolina’s spirituous liquor industry. The membership must include least one representative of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, at least one representative of the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards, and at least one representative of the ABC Commission.
Expansion of Distillery Operations
Significantly, distilleries may now sell their liquor on Sundays. Oct. 3, 2021 was the first time since the end of Prohibition that people could legally buy distilled spirits on Sundays in the state. The ABC Omnibus Act also allows distilleries the discretion to set the length, content, and other parameters of the tours held at their facilities.
More Drinks at Stadium Events
Under the ABC Omnibus Act, sports fans can purchase two alcoholic beverages at a time at college or university stadiums, athletic facilities, and sporting events. The prior law permitted patrons to purchase only one drink at a time.
The ABC Omnibus Act will undoubtedly increase access to, and boost sales of, alcoholic beverages across North Carolina. These changes are sure to be welcomed by the many local businesses still struggling with the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions about the potential impact of the ABC Omnibus Act on your business, please do not hesitate to contact Cranfill Sumner’s Retail, Restaurant & Hospitality team.