What will it take to overturn NC’s ban on happy hour specials?

CHARLOTTE — If you’re planning on unwinding after a long day at work with drinks, don’t expect any happy hour discounts.

Promotions like that have long been illegal in North Carolina, and businesses can face big fines for giving deals. Channel 9′s Joe Bruno uncovered tens of thousands of dollars in fines issued across the state.

There’s a push to change that.

Take Midwood Smokehouse. It’s one of the most popular places for barbecue in our area, but owner Remy Thurston says the types of discounts vary based on location.

In Columbia, South Carolina, they can offer happy hour drink specials.

“They’re very popular, you know, people are always looking for something to do in between work and dinner,” Thurston said.

But for the thirsty in North Carolina, Thurston can’t offer those same discounts.

The ban dates back to 1985, and Rep. Jason Saine of Lincoln County says the time has come to change that.

“Bars, you know, they love having people come in to get them into the bar, and then they stay for dinner, they end up spending more money through establishment as folks do, because it leads right into dinner time,” Saine told Bruno. “It’s a plus for everybody.”

According to the Charlotte Observer’s coverage of the ban back in the ‘80s, public concerns over drinking and driving led the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to outlaw happy hours. As a result, any drink deals must be in place for the entire day.

Bruno obtained records showing that from 2018 to 2023, the ABC Commission issued at least 119 happy hour violations to bars and restaurants.

Saine says that’s unfair.

“Any other businesses [are] allowed to run specials, coupons, if you will, whatever gets you in the door,” Saine said.

Saine’s new bill in the North Carolina state House would legalize happy hours and bring other changes, like allowing cocktails to be sold to-go in North Carolina. The bill stalled last year, but is expected to be discussed again during this session.

Thurston says he’ll be watching.

“What makes our guests happy makes us happy,” he said.

(WATCH: New social district in Gastonia allows drinking between bars)

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