NC bar owners advocating for end of membership regulations, introducing ‘happy hours’

Bar owners in New Hanover County are advocating for change statewide.
Bar
Drinks at the Pour House (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Bar owners in New Hanover County are advocating for change statewide.

The North Carolina Bar Owners Association has partnered with legislators to try and change laws regarding membership policies and allowing happy hour.

Right now, North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Guide outlines bars must operate as private clubs, only being open for members and their guests.

“The argument to keep it because I can tell who’s coming into my bar…people pay with a credit card these days. Cash is way down. There’s a camera,” Pour House owner Joe Apkarian said. “The argument of ‘oh, it’s so we know who’s in there.’ Also, why do you need to know that?”

Joe Apkarian at the Pour House in downtown Wilmington says the laws and rules were created at a dark time in history.

“It was about keeping Black people out of establishments. Like, that was it. Let’s recognize that and say, ‘man, we’ve gotten better.’ But have we? Because we’re still doing it and it’s 2022,” Apkarian said.

Two bills are being presented to the North Carolina General Assembly this week. One aims to overturn the membership regulations and the other introduces “happy hours.”

“Right now, if you do a special it has to be for the entire day and it has to be for all people,” Apkarian said. “So there’s no ladies night, there’s no military appreciation night.”

“It would certainly bring in more revenue, more tip dollar, more sales revenue for the state and tax,” Tinyz Tavern owner Jason Ruth said.

Jason Ruth is vice president of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association and owner of Tinyz Tavern. He’s hoping the bills bring about change.

“I think there’s a big push in Raleigh for modernization of the ABC system and they want to start seeing some changes because the system has not been changed since 1939,” Ruth said. “Now it’s time. In this state, with the way that the population is that to get the ball rolling.”

Ruth is asking for help from lawmakers and North Carolina citizens to modernize the ABC system.

“The laws are too antiquated, they’re too restrictive. That applies to restaurants, bars, breweries, all of us. It’s time,” Ruth said. “Please help us and let’s get these laws changed and move this state into the 21st century.”

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