In May, legislators attempted to bundle temporary liquor to-go legislation into emergency COVID-19 relief bills. Lawmakers cited potential spikes in drunk driving and domestic violence, though, and killed the proposal before the bill made it far.  

Six months later, just under the holiday wire, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 183, which will temporarily permit the sale and delivery of mixed beverages for off-site consumption. 

The temporary parameters of the order are designed, according to the executive order, to open up “additional channels of commerce” around the holidays. The new rule could also be a lifeline during the heart of winter, as fewer patrons are willing to dine on site outdoors.

Numerous vendors—including “restaurants, hotels, private clubs, private bars, and holders of distillery permits”—will be able to sell mixed beverages under the ordinance, which goes into effect tonight at 5 p.m. and will extend through January 31, 2021, at 5 p.m.

Lynn Minges, the president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, or NCRLA, told the INDY that her small team of five is thrilled at the news. 

“This is an issue we fought long and hard for, over nine solid months,” Minges says. “Not a day’s gone by that we haven’t made a call or worked hard to make this happen. This has been a big, big lift. We know that it will be helpful to some restaurants who rely traditionally on alcohol sales for incremental revenue.”

A state-owned monopoly—the ABC Commission—controls liquor sales in North Carolina, making bars arguably the hardest-hit sector of the state’s hospitality industry. While bars do have the ability to sell wine and beer to-go, wine is not a particularly unique premium, and many specialty cocktail bars depend on the sale of mixed beverages. Running a business absent a primary product—as Durham cocktail bar Kingfisher was forced to do, with its summer pivot to burgers—is difficult; already, some Durham bars have shut their doors for good. 

For now, though, Lynne Minges says that the bar owners she’s spoken to are overjoyed. Some will begin selling to-go drinks as soon as tonight. The NCRLA plans to host a virtual tutorial at 2 p.m. tomorrow afternoon to explain the new regulations. 

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