Bar owners pay to renew ABC permits despite being closed for months
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — 107 days closed and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon for private bars.
The deadline for businesses to renew their ABC permits was June 30.
That means paying a hefty price to keep your business alive, despite having little to no income.
Even businesses who have remained closed throughout the pandemic were forced to pay a quadruple digit fee or possibly lose their permit entirely.
Jimmy’s at Wrightsville Beach Owner Jimmy Gilleece says just when he thinks things can’t get worse, they get worse.
“I knew it was due yesterday. I called my lawyer, I called my ABC Consultant and they both said ‘yeah Jimmy I’m sorry you’ve got to pay for it.’ But I’m not allowed to use it? They said, ‘it doesn’t matter, you still do,'” Gilleece said. “So it’s an $1,800 hit and we’ve been closed 107 days. I don’t think it’s fair, but what has been fair about this?”
The North Carolina ABC Commission had already moved the deadline from April 30 to June 30, but unless legislation was passed they were not able to push it any further due to general statutes 18B-902 and 18B-903.
According to an ABC Commission spokesperson, “The General Assembly was considering legislation related to ABC permit registrations and renewals, but nothing was passed prior to the June 30 deadline.”
“I just couldn’t understand how they could possibly do that,” Gilleece said. “I understand there’s steps and procedures you have to go through to get something like that passed, but I was kinda hoping they would think about us to some extent. I understand that they might be giving more time at the end of the month, but we were never told that. And a couple extra weeks isn’t doing anything for us because we’re still going to be closed.”
A spokesperson for the ABC Commission says they recognize the unprecedented circumstances, so they will not be cancelling permits in the month of July.
If a businesses pays the renewal fee before the end of the month, they will not have to go through the process of reapplying for the permit.
Gilleece says he feels like private bars and gyms have been left in the dust.
“At the beginning, everybody was saying ‘Reopen North Carolina, Reopen North Carolina.’ Now everything’s been reopened except for gyms and private bars,” he said. “Now everybody’s rolling, doing their thing. You know Walmart’s busy, Home Depot’s busy, all the restaurant bars are slammed and we’re just kind of left in La la Land.”
Tinyz Tavern Owner Jason Ruth says he paid for his permits right before the shut down, costing him $3,600 because each location requires its own permit.
“We’re in the fourth month of being closed now,” Ruth said. “No income, no help from the state. Some low-interest loans have been offered, but those are loans and the business has to take on debt. We’re still paying our rent, paying our electric bills, we’re paying the water bills while they’re being carried. On top of that, the effect of paying $1,800 for each location with zero income for 107 days is very hard to swallow.”
After a motion filed by the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association to be treated equally as restaurant bars was denied, Ruth says it’s about compensation at this point.
“I would just ask the governor, if he truly believes that this is the correct way and he’s trying to protect public health and we give him that benefit of the doubt, he help us,” Ruth said. “Please pursue with the legislation. Get compensation to us. And I’m not necessarily discussing loans. Loans are debts that we all have to repay. Some grants as I mentioned before would be great. We’re not asking for money to be made, we’re just asking for money to help us with our carrying costs during this crisis.”
The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association released a statement following the deadline.
The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association was shocked to learn that the Legislature ended their June session without providing bar owners a much-needed extension on paying their ABC permit renewal fees.
Bars and taverns have been closed for over 100 days with no end in sight, and many bar owners are on the brink of financial ruin- at least one bar has already gone out of business. The average ABC permit renewal costs $2,000– money that many bar owners say they don’t have now because of the shutdown.
“Something as simple as extending the due date would go a long way to keeping bar owners afloat during this crisis, but they received nothing,” said North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association President Zack Medford. “It’s a slap in the face to still be forced to come out of pocket to pay for an ABC license that you may never be able to use again.”
Failure to pay to renew an ABC permit causes a bar to forfeit their license. Obtaining a new permit is a costly, and time consuming process. NCBATA worked hard to get the ABC renewal extension language into several bills, but ultimately none were passed before the Legislature adjourned. Bars and taverns have been shuttered since March 17 while restaurant bars, hotel bars, and brewery bars have been allowed to reopen since May 22.”