Recently, Locke intern and experienced bartender Michael Bruce wrote about North Carolina’s policy approach toward alcohol. He asked, “Should North Carolina be more like D.C.?

I submit that things are pretty bad if the D.C. policy environment looks better. A few years ago I charted several ways in which the state was more restrictive against alcohol production, distribution, and sales than other states. The good news is that the General Assembly has produced several changes to free up North Carolina’s alcohol policy. You can find them discussed here, along with a brief glimpse of North Carolina before it led the Southeast in prohibition: the nation’s leader in wine production and also the nation’s leader in legal distilleries.

That said, there are still many ways to free up this industry — ways people in many other states already enjoy. Bruce mentioned the state’s ban on Happy Hours, regulations on the hours for serving alcohol to paying customers, and utter reliance on the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC). In this post (made prior to some reforms mentioned above) I listed a few more:

For example:

  • Bars and taverns in North Carolina are forbidden from having “Happy Hours” and targeted drinks specials (such as “Ladies’ Nights”)
  • Distilleries in North Carolina have very limited ability to provide tastings (they can now provide tastings at farmers’ markets now)
  • Distilleries here can’t hold for-profit events
  • Ciders and perries aren’t taxed like beers, but instead face a 62% higher tax rate
  • Distilleries have extremely limited abilities to make sales at fairs and farmers’ markets (basically one “airplane bottle” per person), but they can sell mixed drinks, which is important for distilleries because many people prefer to enjoy spirits in cocktails
  • Bars and taverns can’t hold special drink promotions (like two-for-one; buy-1/get-1-free; buy a meal, get a drink free; etc.)
  • Distilleries can’t sell bottles off-site
  • North Carolina distilleries can’t self-distribute in their home state
  • Liquor stores can’t have package liquor sales on Sundays or holidays

Still, the biggest, most obvious reform remains: making North Carolina a license state in liquor sales, as it is with beer and wine. This reform would include dissolving the ABC boards, selling the ABC stores, divesting the state of the ABC warehouse, and freeing distillers from the ABC Commission dictating an approved products list and statewide prices.