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NC omnibus bill would loosen alcohol regulations and remove membership requirements at bars

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Peter Merholz
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In House Bill 768, bars in Charlotte making less than 30% of their revenue off non-alcohol sales would no longer need to have patrons purchase an annual membership or be a guest of a member to visit their business.

North Carolina’s House Bill 768 passed the state legislature last Wednesday, removing a number of regulations on alcohol. The bill also removes membership requirements at businesses making most of their money from alcohol sales.

“Finally, we've reached a point in the state's history that I think we can say goodbye to this antiquated system and move forward into the 21st century,” said Jason Ruth, who is a bar owner and an executive board member of the North Carolina Association of Bar Owners.

Currently, if an establishment makes less than 30% of their revenue off non-alcoholic food and drink sales, their patrons have to either buy a yearly membership or be a guest of a member.

While that membership can cost as little as $1 a year, the amount of information that is required in signing up to be a member can push potential patrons elsewhere, Ruth said.

“They don't want you to keep record of their emails, their phone numbers, keep record of their date of birth,” Ruth said. “Having people sign up when they come into your bar to have a drink when they can go to, say, a corporate restaurant like a Chili's or an Applebee's and have a drink without signing their personal information over is a big ask.”

But the alcohol omnibus bill would take that requirement off the books, along with a variety of other changes such as allowing community colleges to sell alcohol at sporting events, loosening restrictions on alcohol transportation and making it easier to transfer ABC permits when businesses change management.

The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support. In the state House of Representatives, HB 768 passed with 100-9 while in the Senate the bill passed 36-8. It is currently waiting on Gov. Roy Cooper to either sign or veto the law.

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Lars Lonnroth is a journalism and political science student at Mercer University in Georgia. He's interning at WFAE.