Partying ABCs

Posted September 2, 2012 at 8:59am

This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Democratic Convention Guide.

The booze will flow freely this week in Charlotte. But convention goers hoping to pick up their own supply will have to wait until Tuesday.

Apart from bars and restaurants, only state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores sell hard liquor in North Carolina. And by state law they close on Sundays as well as five holidays: New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The stores also keep limited hours during the week, opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m.
That means local bars and restaurants have stocked up in advance for the beginning of the convention this week. If they run out, it’s tough luck. Proprietors who cross state lines to replenish their stocks risk fines.

This spring, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers tried to suspend the ban temporarily on Labor Day sales in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican in the state General Assembly who sponsored the measure, said she hoped it would “make it easier for our local small businesses – such as restaurants and bars – to safely maximize their profits from the Democratic National Convention.”

Local officials expect that thousands of imbibing convention goers will increase alcohol sales by as much as $1 million over what is typical for the first week in September.

But relaxing the rules wasn’t to be. After the booze bill was passed by the Assembly in June, the state Senate never took it up. Local ABC stores will be taking orders on Labor Day, however, so that restaurants and bars can restock quickly on Tuesday morning.