RALEIGH — North Carolina restaurants could join other cities and states in allowing for the limited takeout and delivery of alcoholic drinks if Republicans in the general assembly reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the Pandemic Response Act.
The Pandemic Response Act was one of the first bills tackled by the General Assembly when it returned to session earlier this week, with both the House and Senate proposing versions. A proposed committee substitute version of the House response act (HB 1043) now includes a provision to allow these sales, with several caveats, including requiring food purchases and limiting the number of drinks. The House bill passed 117-1 Thursday afternoon.
The provision would authorize ABC Commission Chairman A.D. ‘Zander’ Guy, Jr. to permit restaurants to “engage in retail sales for consumption off the premises, including delivery by the permittee or the permittee’s employees or independent contractors.” In other words, in addition to takeout drinks, restaurant employees and third-party delivery services like Uber Eats, Cape Fear Delivery, and others would be allowed to deliver the drinks.
The bill would allow additional requirements to be added by the ABC Chairman, but stipulates “at least” the following regulations:
- Beverage must be “packaged in a container with a secure lid or cap and in a manner designed to prevent consumption without the removal of the lid or cap”
- Sold only with food
- Limited to two servings per meal or food item ordered
Allowing alcoholic drinks for takeaway and delivery would be temporary; the new regulations would expire when Governor Roy Cooper’s State of Emergency under Executive Order 116 ends or is rescinded.
According to State Senator Jay Chaudhuri, the Senate Democratic Whip, the provision in the House version of the bill might not end up in the final Pandemic Response Act. Chaudhuri presented a similar amendment to the Senate version (SB 704) but it was “displaced,” that is, withdrawn for discussion.
Now, Chaudhuri said, it’s up to Republicans, adding that if business owners and residents want to see the provision make it into the final bill, now is the time to contact their elected officials.
“The Republican Senate leadership will now have to sort out its differences with the Republican House bill that’s being voted on today. The House bill contains the mixed drinks delivery provision. If bars and restaurant owners across the state want to see this provision included in the final relief bill, they need to contact and lobby their State Senators,” Chaudhuri said.
Chaudhuri said he’s been thinking about allowing delivery drinks since the shutdown occurred over a month ago, adding that he’s seen similar moves in both right-leaning and left-leaning states.
“I first came up with the idea pretty soon after the shut down occurred. I realized a lot of my favorites bars and restaurants were taking it on the chin financially. The idea of delivering mixed drinks would inject much-needed cash for these businesses. Plus, a lot of other red and blue states have done so. My colleague Senator Harper Peterson, a bar owner himself, reminds me of the need to do so right here in North Carolina,” Chaudhuri said.
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