News: Quick Takes

ABC to reactivate liquor licenses; legislature to take up bill deferring suspensions

Bars that had their liquor licenses suspended due to COVID-19 shutdowns may have gotten a reprieve, thanks to a deal announced by the head of the House ABC Committee and the chairman of the state ABC Commission.

In a news release issued Friday, Jan. 22, Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Henderson, chairman of the House Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control, said he received assurances from ABC Commission Chairman Zander Guy that private bars will have their liquor licenses reactivated when those establishments can reopen. More than 120 bars across North Carolina lost their licenses because they hadn’t paid fees to the state. Most fell behind on their fees because they were out of money; Gov. Roy Cooper had shut down all private bars as part of his COVID-19 regulations.

The General Assembly had passed a law delaying the deadline for paying license fees for 90 days, but that period passed and private bars — unless they had outdoor seating — remained closed. The ABC started suspending or revoking permits Jan. 4.

In his news release, Moffitt said he thought the ABC Commission’s actions were unlawful. But he praised Guy and Deputy Commissioner Terrance Merriweather “for working with me so quickly to resolve the issue.” As part of the agreement, bar owners not only will be able to keep their licenses but also will have any late-payment penalties waived.

Moffitt also said he plans to introduce legislation letting bar owners defer any fees and payments until Cooper lets bars reopen fully.

Private bar owners have filed two lawsuits challenging Cooper’s use of his emergency powers to treat private bars differently than other establishments selling alcohol.