North Carolina is one of just a handful of states to ban happy hour specials at bars and restaurants. But if a bill in the General Assembly passes, that could change as soon as this summer.
The state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission banned businesses with liquor licenses from running happy hour-style discounts, such as two-for-one specials and Ladies’ Nights, in 1985. ABC acted out of concern that such deals encouraged overconsumption and led to drunk driving.
Happy hour bill in the General Assembly
A bill backed by bar and restaurant lobby groups called ABC Laws/Local Sales Option would remove the statewide ban and give local governments the option of allowing happy hours. Liquor vendors in cities where happy hours were allowed would be able to apply for a supplementary happy hour permit that would cost $100. If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2023.
What about drinking and driving?
However, there does not appear to be anything in the bill to deal with the likely increase in DUI that would result. Discounts on drinks will encourage some customers to order more than they ordinarily might, especially if the offer lasts only an hour or two. Two-for-one specials could especially lead to binge drinking, or consuming several drinks in a short time.
The dram shop law
One thing that might limit bars, restaurants and nightclubs from going too far with their happy hour specials if the bill passes is North Carolina’s dram shop law. Dram shop laws state that a business or social host that overserves someone they know or reasonably should know is drunk is liable if that person later drives drunk and causes injuries in a car accident. Going after the business where the drunk driver who hurt you became intoxicated may be an option after a major collision.