Jul 10, 2022 - Business

New North Carolina law removes membership requirement for private bars

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A new North Carolina law that loosens certain alcohol restrictions should be a boon for business, according to some in the restaurant and bar industry.

What’s happening: Gov. Cooper signed House Bill 768 into law on Thursday afternoon. Among other changes, the law removes the requirement that customers become “members” at private bars in North Carolina.

  • Membership, which requires a fee as well as the disclosure of contact information, has long been required for establishments where alcohol makes up more than 70% of total sales.
  • If they exceed that number, they have to either serve food or operate as a members-only club, says Mohammad Jenatian, head of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality & Tourism Alliance.

Why it matters: Requiring membership was an unneeded burden on local businesses, Jenatian told Axios. Removing that requirement was long overdue, he added.

  • “It was always a system that allowed businesses to legally discriminate against their customers. It made absolutely no sense,” Jenatian said of the membership requirement. “Over the years there were a lot of bars that were forced to provide food service when they didn’t want or need to.”
  • Removing the membership requirement will help make the area more visitor-friendly, he added.
  • The measure also allows community colleges sell alcohol when they host professional sporting events.

The big picture: The North Carolina Bar Owners Association has been pushing for the state to loosen some of its alcohol laws, which the association considers outdated, as WRAL reported.

“There is a very antiquated requirement in North Carolina alcohol laws,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Pricey Harrison told Asheville station WLOS. “It was an odd requirement meant, I guess, to limit folks’ consumption of alcohol. A lot of our laws date back to Prohibition.”

Zoom out: Businesses are welcoming the removal of the membership requirement.

“It is good to see our General Assembly creating new laws supporting local businesses by doing away with private clubs with membership requirements,” Gary Crunkleton, owner of The Crunkleton, tells Axios.

Crystal Capettini, owner of the Burger Bar in Asheville, told WLOS that customers didn’t like having to share their personal information to become members. “I think most also most bar owners are excited about it,” Capettini said of HB 768.

What’s next: The law took effect immediately.

Editor’s note: The story has been corrected to show that membership has long been required for establishments where alcohol makes up more than 70% of total sales, not less than.

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