New bill proposal aims to legalize Happy Hour drink specials in North Carolina

If the bill passes as written, each county would have to opt-in to offer Happy Hour permits.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 6:34 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After a long work week, you may want to wind down with a drink at your favorite bar or restaurant. What many people in North Carolina might not realize, however, is that Happy Hour drink specials are against state law.

House Bill 94, introduced in the General Assembly this week, could soon allow for Happy Hour deals in North Carolina.

Jess Thompson is a bartender at Jimmy’s in Wrightsville Beach. She says offering drink deals for a certain amount of time during the day could have benefits.

“I guess it could be pretty beneficial as well, depending on the hours that you set for it,” said Thompson. “And if you have food to serve to pair with certain drinks, that would be beneficial as well.”

If passed, the bill would allow counties to opt-in and offer Happy Hour permits to places like bars and restaurants. Those permits would cost $100.

Ellie Craig is the marketing manager at Front Street Brewery in Wilmington. She has concerns about how the opt-in and permit process would work.

“There’s just a little bit too much room for lack of uniformity, lack of the ability to enforce,” Craig said. “So we would like to see that bill rewritten in a way that’s more of a blanket statement for the state of North Carolina.”

Craig questions if places like breweries, that offer made-in-house drinks, would be willing to offer the same specials as other venues.

“We don’t want to devalue our product,” Craig said. “You know, we make an independently made craft beer and we want to be compensated for the work that we’re doing and the value of that product. So, that’s another issue that we have to consider as well.”

Thompson says Happy Hours, while likely good for business, could encourage people to drink more than they normally would.

“You just would have to be extra hyper-aware of specific people and just kind of watch their limit and how they’re acting and whatnot,” Thompson said.

The bill passed its first reading in the house on Tuesday and will now go through several committees. If eventually signed into law, sponsors hope it would go into effect this summer.