Bar owners push for North Carolina law to allow happy hour discounts

If you’re grabbing a beer or cocktail after work, you won’t find a happy hour discount anywhere in North Carolina.

It’s against the law, but some bar owners across the state are pushing for changes. They say allowing drink deals would not only bring in more customers, but more tax money for the state too.

Customers coming to watch a show at Scorpio on Freedom Drive can’t just walk in and order a drink, because the business doesn’t serve food. It’s considered a private bar with membership required.

“I scan all the info on your driver’s license and I take your phone number, which is required by the state. You have to tell me why you’re coming here and it can’t be to drink,” said Michael Sharpton, the owner of Scorpio in west Charlotte.

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Sharpton is one of more than 150 bar owners statewide pushing lawmakers to eliminate that membership requirement during the short session that started this week.

“It will level the playing field for us and another marketing tool to gather tourism dollars,” he said.

Bar owners want to be able to offer drink deals too.

Right now, establishments can only offer day-long specials. Happy hours aren’t allowed.

Vice president of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association, Jason Ruth, told Channel 9, “To combine food and a drink or drinks at a discounted rate would drive up business, and thus tax revenue. For restaurants it is important because they could, let’s say, offer a burger and a beer for $10.”

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Bar owners are bracing for pushback though, with opponents worried that offering cheaper alcohol could lead to crime.

“People are worried about DUI rates,” Ruth said.

Representative John Hardister of Guilford County strongly supports those changes for bar owners and is drafting the provisions right now.

Hardister is not sure if they’ll be introduced before the short session ends in June.

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