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New North Carolina law removes membership requirement for private bar associations

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

What is happening: Governor Cooper signed House Bill 768 into law on Thursday afternoon. Among other changes, the law removes the requirement for patrons to become “members” of private bars in North Carolina.

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

Why is this important: Requiring membership was an unnecessary burden on local businesses, Jenatian told Axios. Removing this requirement was long overdue, he added.

  • “It was still a system that allowed companies to legally discriminate against their customers. It made absolutely no sense,” Jenatian said of the membership requirement. “Over the years, many bars have been forced into providing catering service when they didn’t want or need it.”
  • Removing the membership requirement will help make the region friendlier to visitors, he added.
  • The measure also allows community colleges to sell alcohol when they host professional sporting events.

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Bar Owners Association has been pushing for the state to relax some of its liquor laws, which the association considers outdated, as reported by WRAL.

“There is a very outdated requirement in North Carolina’s liquor laws,” co-sponsored Rep. Pricey Harrison of the bill told Asheville station WLOS. “It was a strange requirement intended, I suppose, to limit people’s consumption of alcohol. A lot of our laws date back to Prohibition.

Zoom out: Businesses welcome the removal of the membership requirement.

“It’s good to see our General Assembly creating new laws supporting local businesses by removing private clubs with membership requirements,” Gary Crunkleton, owner of The Crunkleton, told Axios.

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

And after: The law took effect immediately.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement