Happy Hour, anyone? Some North Carolina Alcohol Laws You May Not Know About


There are complicated rules for transporting cocktails to go, which have become popular in the summer of 2020.

There are complicated rules for transporting cocktails to go, which have become popular in the summer of 2020.

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North Carolina stands out from the rest of the country with some of its rules regarding the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol.

In fact, if you’re a transplant recipient, your first Google search for “happy hours near me” might have made your hair stand on end.

Here are some state liquor laws you should know about.

1. North Carolina’s liquor stores are government-owned

As you pass the illuminated liquor store signs, have you ever wondered if “ABC” was an acronym for something?

He represents the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission — so yes, the state controls all liquor stores in North Carolina.

The commission operates several hundred ABC stores across North Carolina’s 100 counties — excluding far western Graham County, The N&O previously reported. (More on that later.)

But there has been growing pressure to open up the market to private companies, especially after The N&O revealed in 2018 that ABC wasted millions of taxpayer dollars ($11.3 million, to be exact) over 13 years.

You can use ABC’s government website to find a liquor store near you: abc.nc.gov/Search/ABCStoreLocator

“Happy Hour” drink specials are illegal in North Carolina. Restaurants and bars can only offer Happy Hour food specialties. If there are drink specials, they should last all day. Juli Leonard [email protected]

2. Illegal Happy Hours in North Carolina

Yes, to some extent. At least the happy hours you’re probably thinking of.

North Carolina catering establishments can only offer Happy Hour Food Specials. If companies want to run drink promotions, the discount should last all day.

Establishments can sell margarita pitchers, wine bottles, beer buckets, and more liquor options in large quantities to two or more customers, per 14B NCAC 15B .0223.

There is a slight exception to the special drink rule: four days a year companies can offer a global market – whether for catering or entertainment – ​​where alcoholic beverages are included in the price. These four days include New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

“Offering a meal and alcoholic beverage at a single total price is not a violation of this section as long as the total price reflects the actual price of the alcoholic and non-discounted drinkssays ABC rule 2S.232(d)(e).

3. Bottomless mimosas are also illegal in North Carolina

This is not an anti-mimosa rule – it applies to all alcoholic beverages.

Administrative Rule 14B NCAC 15B .0223 states that an on-site permittee shall not:

  • Sell ​​more than one drink to a customer for a single price
  • Determine a single price based on the required purchase of more than one drink
  • Give more than one drink at a time to a customer for consumption

“Bottomless” Drink Deals (paying one price for multiple drinks) would be in violation of this rule,” said Erin Bean, public information officer for liquor enforcement at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

4. Alcohol sales are limited on Sundays in NC

ABC stores are closed on Sundays.

The 2017 “brunch bill,” signed into state law by Governor Roy Cooper, allowed restaurants to begin serving alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sunday, The N&O previously reported. Before that, the sale of alcohol was not allowed to start on Sundays before noon.

A later addition to the bill expanded the provision to include grocery stores, convenience stores, private clubs and any other place licensed to sell alcohol.

In October 2021, the the first bottle of alcohol was sold legally in North Carolina on a Sunday since Prohibition began in the early 1900s, WRAL reported. State distilleries became able to sell their own liquor products last fall after changes were made to a sweeping liquor control law.

5. No open containers / broken seals in the car

Basically, once you break the seal on a liquor bottle, you you can’t have it in your car. (It can, however, fit in the trunk or the back of a station wagon or SUV.)

Both open and closed (sealed) containers of any type of alcoholic beverage is prohibited in a commercial vehicle, such as a bus or dump truck. There are a few exceptions, which can be found at cdps.gov.

When the legislator approved cocktails to go in 2020, there were all sorts of rules about how everything had to be packaged for transport, The N&O previously reported. The cocktail must be in a sealed container and must be kept sealed at all times during transport from the restaurant or bar to your destination — the same as a bottle of liquor purchased from an ABC store, according to the governor’s office. You cannot consume the drink inside your vehicle.

REMARK: Some municipal ordinances may also prohibit walking with an open container in public.

There are complicated rules for transporting cocktails to go, which have become popular in the summer of 2020. Juli Leonard [email protected]

6. Public intoxication is not a crime in NC

It is not illegal to be drunk in a public place (like a restaurant or store), NC Gen. Stat. Anna. § 14-447 says

But while the police can’t arrest you for drunkennessthey can catch an intoxicated person publicly under preventive dentention, which may include the person’s home or that of a loved one. It could also include a shelter or health facility, according to NC Gen. Stat. Anna. § 122C-301.

In addition, it’s a crime to be disruptive public drunk. It is illegal to do any of the following while intoxicated in public, according to NC Gen. Stat. Anna. § 14-444, and you could be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor:

  • Block or impede traffic on a highway or an area reserved for public vehicles

  • Blocking or lying across, otherwise preventing or impeding access or passage on a sidewalk or the entrance to a building

  • Grab, shove, push or fight others, or challenge others to a fight

  • Insulting, shouting or rudely insulting others

  • Begging or begging for money or other goods

7. North Carolina has a “dry county”

Graham County in western North Carolina is the only county in the state that is “dry”, meaning the sale of alcohol there is illegal.

However, according to Graham’s tourism website, a few resorts in the area went through “a long and expensive process” to obtain a special license to sell alcohol.

8. NC’s DWI blood alcohol limit is 0.08% (except when it’s not)

There are a few strict rules when it comes to DWI (Drunk Driving) charges in North Carolina, but having blood alcohol level below 0.08% alcohol in volume doesn’t automatically mean you’re in the clear.

If your Intoxilyzer test indicates 0.08% or more, your license is revoked for 30 days. After 10 days, a limited driving privilege becomes available.

This the limit drops to 0.04% if you drive a utility vehicle.

For those under 21, or those who drive school buses or daycare vehicles, there is a zero tolerance policy: no level of alcohol consumption is allowed while driving.

Here are some other DWI rules in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety:

  • If you refuse an Intoxilyzer test (either breath or blood), your license is automatically revoked for 30 days, and the DPS imposes an additional one-year revocation after the opportunity for a hearing. Even if you are found not guilty of a DWI offense in court, the one-year revocation is still imposed for refusing the test, but you can get limited driving privilege after six months.

  • If a person under 21 refuses an Intoxilyzer test and has simply smell of alcohol on their breaththey can be convicted of driving after drinking.

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Kimberly Cataudella (her) is a duty reporter for The News & Observer.


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