New NC law sets path for alcoholic drinks outside of bars, restaurants

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A new bill recently signed into law could mean you can carry alcoholic beverages outside bars and restaurants in North Carolina. This law also allows online orders at ABC stores after October 1.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed Bill 890 into law on Friday, creating the possibility for cities to create social districts where people can buy, carry, and drink alcohol. The law says the districts are designated outdoor areas where people can drink alcohol sold by businesses with appropriate permits outside the barriers of outdoor seating on the business’ property.

“I think it’s great,” Krista Carmichael, who frequently visits Wilmington, said. “This is a great vacation town and everybody comes here to have fun and relax.”

“It would be nice to kind of hop from one place to another especially if you had a drink while you’re waiting,” area resident Carrie Williams said.

Owner of Slanite Irish Pub Misha Sobol said it’s the best thing to happen since the pandemic.

“It’s a good decision but it needs to be synchronized,” Sobol said. “With a decision of this nature, it comes with responsibility.”

Sobol said it needs to be well organized with the city council, law enforcement, and business owner for it to be successful.

“I don’t want people to come downtown just because they want to get drunk,” Sobol said. “I want to have people come downtown to enjoy the sunset, enjoy the river, enjoy the restaurants, enjoy food and different places that are opening up, and having a drink in a bar. But be responsible.”

Mayor Bill Saffo said it’s something the city council will begin evaluating. He believes it is very doable and enforceable, comparing it to Downtown Alive, but potentially on a larger scale.

He said the city would coordinate with police, businesses, and more to ensure it would be safe and well-executed before voting to make it happen.

House Bill 890 also includes the following:

  • Allows people to place online orders for liquor at Alcoholic Beverage Control stores that they could then pick up in person
  • Expands the legal size of growlers from 2 liters to 4 liters
  • Loosens the rules on distilleries and wineries that sell their products to tourists, including allowing Sunday sales, when ABC stores are closed
  • Allows fans at college sporting events to buy two drinks at a time
  • Allows cities and towns to create “social districts” where people can walk about with alcoholic beverages from nearby restaurants and bars
  • Establishes rules for ice cream, popsicle or gelatin products containing alcohol
  • Allows charter buses that travel at least 75 miles to serve alcohol, an idea one critic called “bars on wheels”
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