Alcoholics Beverages State and Local Regulatory Framework
There are both state and local components to alcohol regulations in NC. This guide begins with the historical framework of NC regulatory agencies and then moves to the enforcement structure across the state. The guide ends with the local framework for how local elections are conducted.
Development of Regulatory FrameworkIn 1937 the NC General Assembly passed the Control Act, which established The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission *ABC Commission.* The Control Act also established that no county or city in NC can allow the sale of alcohol, unless first approved by local voters. NC has 50 county and 118 municipal ABC boards, which operate a total of 430 ABC stores which sell liquor. In 2017, sales of mixed beverages totaled $1.068 billion. The sale of beer, wine, and mixed drinks is legal in any county or city that has voted in favor of sale.
N.C. Gen. Stat * 18B-206 grants the ABC Commission the authority to set standards for alcoholic beverages:
The Commission may set standards and adopt rules for all of the following:
* malt beverages
* unfortified wine
* fortified wine
* spirituous liquor
* protecting the public against beverages containing harmful or impure substances
* beverages containing an improper balance of substances (which is determined by the Commission)
* spurious or imitation beverages
* beverages unfit for human consumption
Enforcement of Alcohol LawsIn 1949 the General Assembly established ABC enforcement. Inspectors had limited enforcement authority and wore plain clothes. It was not until 1964 that ABC inspectors because officers with the authority to arrest for alcohol-based crimes. In 1977 the General Assembly established the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, and ABC enforcement became Alcohol Law Enforcement *ALE.* In 2014, ALE was transferred into a Branch Agency of the State Bureau of Investigation.
ALE* is the lead enforcement agency for North Carolina*s state alcoholic beverage control laws. ALE special agents enforce laws against establishments and individuals that promote violence, drugs, gang activities, organized crime, and money laundering.
ALE has 8 districts throughout the state, ordered from East to West:
District 1: Jacksonville * Onslow County
District 2: Greenville * Pitt County
District 3: Fayetteville * Cumberland County
District 4: Raleigh * Wake County
District 5: Greensboro * Guilford County
District 6: Harrisburg * Cabarrus County
District 7: Hickory * Catawba County
District 8: Asheville * Buncombe County
Within these districts, ALE has the Be A Responsible Seller/Server training program, otherwise known as BARS. BARS is an educational program offered to licensed ABC permit holders and their employees, but is open to the public as well. Often times for first offenders, prosecutors will offer a deferment or dismissal of the charges for successful completion of 1 hours of BARS training course.
Local FrameworkN.C. Gen Stat * 18B-600. Places eligible to hold alcoholic beverage elections.
(a) Kinds of Elections.
The following kinds of alcoholic beverage elections shall be permitted:
(1) Malt beverage;
(2) Unfortified wine;
(3) ABC store; and
(4) Mixed beverage.
(b) County Elections.
Any county may hold a malt beverage, unfortified wine, or ABC store election. A county may hold a mixed beverage election only if the county already operates at least one county ABC store or a county election on ABC stores is to be held at the same time as the mixed beverage election.
(c) City Malt Beverage and Unfortified Wine Elections. A city may hold a malt beverage or unfortified wine election only if the county in which the city is located has already held such an election, the vote in the last county election was against the sale of that kind of alcoholic beverage, and:
(1) The city has a population of 500 or more; or
(2) The city operates an ABC store
(d) City ABC Store Elections.
A city may hold an ABC store election only if:
(1) The city has at least 1,000 registered voters; and
(2) The county in which the city is located does not operate ABC stores
(e) City Mixed Beverage Elections.
A city may hold a mixed beverage election if the city has at least 500 registered voters. Provided, that if a city that qualifies for an election under this subsection approves the sale of mixed beverages, mixed beverages permittees in the city may purchase liquor from the ABC store designated by the local ABC board that has been approved by the Commission for this purpose.