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ABC Law Legal Update: The Omnibus Bill

We receive a lot of questions about the 2022 updates to the North Carolina ABC laws. Those in the alcoholic beverage industry have long waited for North Carolina to begin to modernize its ABC laws, and this year brought a small measure of change.

North Carolina is a control State that strictly regulates the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages at every stage, so it does not come as much of a surprise that it has taken the legislature this long to change things up and begin to make its ABC laws more in line with the less restrictive states.

ABC Law Legal Update: The Omnibus Bill
ABC Law Legal Update: The Omnibus Bill

There were several notable changes that went into effect recently; however, one of the most notable came from the passing of the 2022 ABC Omnibus Bill, which was signed into law in July 2022, and officially went into effect this past Monday, August 1, 2022. The Omnibus Bill relaxed requirements for establishments that desired to solely sell alcoholic beverages sans food. An homage to the 1930’s post-Prohibition era, North Carolina law has previously required small business owners selling alcoholic beverages to classify as either a restaurant or a private bar.

Restaurant or Private Bar?

The main distinction between these two types of establishments is whether the food was offered in addition to alcohol, whereas those that chose not to sell food would be required to classify as a private bar and acquire a special permit. While choosing not to offer food for sale did allow owners to circumvent many FDA-related requirements, classifying it as a private bar had its own restrictions that made operation particularly tedious.

For example, as a private bar, businesses were required to collect membership dues from patrons and submit annual member lists that identified all of its members by name, address, and other identifying information, which then gave cause for concern about privacy violations. The Omnibus Bill eliminates the “private bar” distinction and instead redefines the term “bar” to permit establishments to solely serve alcohol without membership requirements.

Requirements to Qualify as a Restaurant Relaxed

Additionally, many business owners found themselves without many alternatives and were forced into obtaining a private bar permit because they did not meet the requirements to qualify as a restaurant, which have been relaxed by the Bill. For instance, North Carolina ABC regulations previously required restaurants to provide 36 indoor seats, whereas the Omnibus Bill now drastically lowers that requirement to only 10.

While North Carolina has been slow to act, the Omnibus Bill is seen as a more modern step in the right direction for North Carolina’s alcoholic beverage industry.

DYE CULIK PC is a Charlotte, North Carolina law firm. Our attorneys work with business owners in the food and beverage industry in all aspects of the business including ABC Law compliance. We're here to help, contact us for a consultation.


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