A state bill that would change a wide array of current regulations to alcohol sales cleared the House Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) on Tuesday, and if passed, could result in alcoholic beverage sales on the new Ocracoke passenger ferry, as well as Sunday hours of operation for ABC stores.
House Bill 536 was filed on April 2, with primary sponsors Chuck McGrady (R), James L. Bole, Jr. (R), Susan C. Fisher (D), and Jon Hardister (R), and local Rep. Bobby Hanig (R) listed as one of the co-sponsors.
The bill, which tackles a range of alcohol-related deregulations, would allow for alcohol sales of malt beverages, unfortified wine, and fortified wine to be sold on the new Hatteras / Ocracoke passenger ferry on the route to Ocracoke only. A similar measure was introduced in 2018 via House Bill 1029, a broad bill that addressed transportation laws in the state, but it was cut from the bill in June by the Senate.
The new House Bill 536 would also potentially allow ABC stores to open on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., stating “A county may adopt an ordinance authorizing its ABC stores to be open, and authorizing its 41 ABC store employees to sell alcoholic beverages, on any or all days otherwise prohibited under 42 G.S. 18B-802(b).”
House Bill 536 also includes a measure to allow bar customers to purchase up to four drinks at once, making it easier for patrons to buy a round for a large group, and would grant more freedom to craft distilleries by allowing them to ship products to customers outside of North Carolina, and to sell an unlimited amount of product to visitors, (instead of a five-bottle limit per year.)
The News & Observer reported on Wednesday that the bill has its opponents, primarily from social conservatives, with Rep. Pat Hurley, a Randolph County Republican, speaking out against liquor sales on the Ocracoke ferry and noting that many visitors drive golf carts once they have arrived on Ocracoke Island.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the bill had been referred to the House Committee on Finance. The public can keep track of the bill and its ensuing updates at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H536, and a complete copy of the bill can be found at https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H536v2.pdf.