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NC bar owners fighting for happy hour, fewer restrictions from the state

Michael Sharpton, the owner of Scorpio in Charlotte, said as years go by it seems like he's stuck with prohibition era policies.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you're looking for a happy hour or drink deal in North Carolina, you're not going to find one due to state law. Some bar owners told WCNC Charlotte they are pushing back on the current laws enforced by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control

The NC ABC Commission, the enforcer of state law that regulates how bars and nightclubs operate, hasn't changed since the 1930s. Michael Sharpton, the owner of Scorpio in Charlotte, said as years go by it seems like he's stuck with prohibition era policies.

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“The ABC system in North Carolina is certainly outdated," Sharpton said. “One of the things that is burdensome is the membership rules.” 

Anyone walking into a bar or nightclub -- a business that does not serve food -- has to register as a member. The establishment is legally obligated to take down a patron's personal information including phone numbers and addresses. The patron also had to pay a separate membership fee.

This membership fee applies to everyone, even if you're visiting from out of town. 

In addition to the membership, North Carolinians won't find a "Happy Hour deal." The law states that bars can't change the price of an item unless it's for the whole day. 

This fight is being taken to the North Carolina State Capitol next week. There are bills being introduced that would do away with happy hour constraint and membership policies. Jason Ruth, Vice President of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association, said the push comes down to profit. 

He said bar owners aren't the only people missing out on money. 

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“We do have support to have both bills introduced," Ruth said. “I believe the state is missing out on sales tax from our members.” 

The North Carolina ABC provided WCNC Charlotte with the following statement: 

"The Commission provides several functions including licensing (or permitting) producers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers that sell beer, wine, or mixed drinks. Commission staff also review and approve new products for sale in the state, provide point-of-sale responsible service and delivery training, conduct audits, and assist with other legal issues related to ABC law. While the ABC Commission is not a law enforcement agency, we receive violation reports submitted by law enforcement and process ABC violations. Fines generated from administrative ABC violations are distributed to the school system in the jurisdiction in which the violation was committed."

North Carolina is one of 17 states that are deemed liquor control states. These states have laws in place in which the state becomes the overseer of the sale of alcohol at an establishment.  

Credit: WCNC

The state of North Carolina also determines how much a bar can buy a bottle for. 

“A typical bottle for $20 that would cost you, it would cost me $24," Sharpton said.

Contact Austin Walker at awalker@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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