We know that COVID has really taken its toll on a lot of small businesses in North Carolina, especially the craft beverage industry. Unfortunately, COVID and the government restrictions have closed a lot of our local bars. While it saddens us to see our favorite 80’s bar or the little dive place around the corner close up shop, North Carolina ABC is doing what they can to help our local retail establishments open and operate while being compliant with the Governor’s Executive Orders.

In May, North Carolina ABC announced the Temporary Extension of Premises for on-Premise Consumption. So, what exactly does this mean for On-premise permit holders?

  1. The temporary allowance is mainly to help promote social distancing efforts
    1. According to Executive Order 181, private bars (what we just think of as a regular bar) and establishments that do not serve food, were allowed to reopen after being shut down for many months but under certain restrictions:
      1. Bars may allow consumption of alcohol in outdoor seating areas only
      1. Bars are limited to no more than 100 people or 30% capacity (the lesser of the two)
      1. No more than 7 people per 1000 sq. ft.
  2. It allows on-premise permit holders to extend their outdoor seating areas to allow for more service
    1. Do I need to let ABC know if I extend my premise under this allowance?
      1. Nope! The only requirement to temporarily extend your outdoor premise is to get approval from your local government agency. No application is necessary for ABC.
      1. Once you get approval from the local government, you MUST notify your local ALE agent of the temporary premise extension, which you can find here: https://www.ncdps.gov/our-organization/law-enforcement/alcohol-law-enforcement/about-ale
      1. If your lease/deed does not cover/mention the temporarily extended premise area, you MUST have landlord consent before talking to your local government officials.
  3. I’ve extended my premise; how do I maintain ABC compliance?
    1. Should you choose to extend your premise, you MUST maintain an updated diagram of the permitted premise (including table placement) as well as barriers to keep consumers within your temporary permitted premise.
      1. You MUST have signs saying “No Alcohol Permitted Past This Point”
      1. We have seen interesting ways to block off premises; from barrel planters, to a simple stake in the group with rope, to fences; whatever your heart desires as long as you have signage!
  4. You cannot increase your max capacity or alter anything pertaining to your fire codes
    1. Your temporary permitted premise must be adjacent to, connected to, abutting etc. to the original licensed premise.
      1. What this means is that you can’t permit the grass field across the parking lot from your establishment. Yes, it may be just across the parking lot, but your parking lot is not permitted for alcohol consumption and you can’t transport open containers of alcohol across unpermitted spaces.
      1. You CAN permit the parking lot and sidewalk right outside of your establishment (with landlord and government approval, of course).
  5. Some landlords are ahead of the game!
    1. Some town officials and landlords are coming to alcohol retailers allowing them to take over parking spaces, alleyways and other outdoor spaces for tenants to use for more outdoor seating.

NC ABC is definitely trying their best to work with small business owners in the craft beverage industry and we’re glad to see it! But, remember that holding an ABC permit is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. Temporarily extending your premise is one of the privileges ABC is giving to permit holders during COVID and any failure to comply with the listed restrictions and provisions could result in immediate cancellation of your temporary premise extension…or worse, losing your license all together.

Be responsible, be smart and if you have any questions whatsoever, your Beer Law team is standing by ready to assist with any issues or questions you may have. It’s always better to ask before rather than begging for forgiveness later!