When bars and restaurants in North Carolina were forced to close their doors to patrons at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local government made important changes to the state’s liquor laws that were designed to help businesses safely serve customers through takeout and delivery orders and support alcohol sales. North Carolina liquor laws are overseen by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control System, an organization that governs how, where, and when alcohol can be sold throughout the state. Read on to learn more about how the pandemic has affected NC liquor laws.
Overview of Alcohol Sales in NC
North Carolina abides by the three-tier system to distribute and sell alcohol. A producer (tier 1) can sell their products and ship them to wholesalers (tier 2) who are only permitted to sell to retailers (tier 3). In North Carolina, there are a total of 18,764 retail businesses that are allowed to sell alcohol. This number includes both on-premise (restaurants/bars/clubs) and off-premise (gas stations/grocery stores) businesses. Distilleries, wineries and wholesalers account for another 6,379 commercial permits. To learn more about the specific of the state’s ABC laws, you can reference Chapter 18B in the NC General Statutes and the Commission’s Rules in Title 14B, Chapter 15 of the NC Administrative Code.
COVID-19 Related Alcohol Regulation Changes
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cooper issued an Executive Order that allowed the ABC Commission to authorize mixed beverages to be delivered or served as carry-out. The Order was effective beginning on December 21, 2020, and was extended several times up until June 1, 2021. The goal of the order was to provide a safer alternative to on-premise consumption and still allow businesses to earn revenue from alcohol sales in NC.
Under the Order, only one drink can be served at one time, per person. If a group orders a meal with drinks, each person in the party must be present to show their ID and pick up their drink. A single person is not allowed to pick up the entire order for the group. In addition, the beverage has to be served in a sealed container that remains closed during the transportation process. It is illegal to consume alcohol or have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.
When Can Consumers Buy Alcohol in NC
State law restricts alcohol sales from Monday-Saturday between the times of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. On Sundays, alcohol can only be purchased at off-premise locations after 12 p.m. Businesses that hold an on-premise license must stop alcohol sales at 2 a.m. and customers have until 2:30 a.m. to finish their drinks. All open alcoholic drinks must be cleared by this time. It is important to note that individual cities and counties have the right to add further restrictions.
When Can Consumers Purchase Beer in NC?
In North Carolina, liquor is only sold at ABC stores that are run by the state. ABC stores are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Beer and wine are available at grocery and convenience stores. No alcohol is allowed to be sold between the hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Sunday Alcohol Policies in NC
For years, North Carolina alcohol sales have been governed by “blue laws”, which were designed to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. These laws severely limited alcohol sales on Sundays. However, Governor Roy Cooper signed the “Brunch Bill” into law on June 30, 2017, which allowed restaurants and stores to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays as opposed to noon. However, this law is still subject to local approval. More urban areas with a busy restaurant scene have embraced the change and allowed businesses to begin selling alcohol at 10 a.m. The “Brunch Bill” did not affect ABC store operations, which remain closed on Sundays.
North Carolina is one of many states, including Texas, Florida, and Ohio, that has made changes to its liquor laws in the wake of COVID-19. As of June 2021, these changes are still in effect. It remains to be seen whether the state will ultimately decide to roll back these looser regulations or make them permanent reforms as more bars and restaurants are able to welcome back in-person patrons.
What time can you buy alcohol in NC?
Consumers can purchase alcohol Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m.
What time can you buy beer in NC?
Beer can be purchased Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. On Sunday, beer can be sold after 10 a.m.
What are the Sunday alcohol sales NC policies?
ABC stores that sell liquor are closed on Sundays. On-premise and off-premise locations can sell alcohol after 10 a.m. on Sundays.
Can you still order alcohol to go in NC?
Yes, bars and restaurants are still allowed to sell one beverage per person at a time for takeout or delivery.