By Skyler Shields

            Prior to September 1, 2019 this would be a joke not many North Carolina beer drinkers would understand.  Up until that time, North Carolina law banned man’s best friend from stepping even one little paw into a North Carolina brewery.[1]  Today however, you can bring all your favorite pups to the brewery to enjoy all of your favorite brews.[2]

            Despite North Carolina’s long history of restrictive alcohol laws, on July 29, 2019, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 290 into law.[3]  In terms of restrictiveness, North Carolina was one of only two states that refused to ratify the Twenty-First Amendment[4] and North Carolina is one of only seventeen “alcohol control states” which allow local governments to control the sale of liquor.[5]  Furthermore, North Carolina outlaws “happy hours.”[6]  If a bar or restaurant wants to run a special they must offer it all day or not offer it at all.[7]  However, Senate Bill 290, titled the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, took effect on September 1, 2019, and significantly updated many aspects of North Carolina alcohol law.[8]  With the passage of the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, North Carolina updated its alcohol laws in a number of ways, three of which are discussed below.

            First, and most famously, the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill allows for dogs and cats to enter breweries that do not serve food.[9]  Prior to the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, dogs were not allowed into any brewery that re-use glassware.[10]  This law prohibited pets from entering many breweries, since essentially almost all breweries re-use glassware because using single-use cups may not be financially feasible.[11]  The ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, however, solves this problem by creating a brewery-specific exemption.[12]  Under this new exemption, breweries are not subject to the regulations, which outlaw our furry friends.[13]

            Second, the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill allows one person to buy multiple drinks at one time. Prior to the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, the law was: one drink per person.[14] That is, a customer could not go to the bar and buy a beer for a friend. With the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, the North Carolina Legislature decided to really shake things up. As of September 1, 2019 you can buy not one, not two . . . no wait; actually you can only buy two beers at a time.[15] Now I know what you might be wondering: two beers are all well and good, but how many glasses of wine can I order? Well, prepare yourself because you can order a whopping total of two glasses of wine at any given time.[16] What about liquor drinks? Well the North Carolina Legislature and I are thrilled to announce that you may purchase either one mixed drink or one “spiritous liquor” at a time.[17] All jokes aside, these are subtle changes that will make life easier for bartenders and customers alike while not drastically altering the risk of customer buying beer for underage minors. Thus, although it is only a small change, it is a step in modernizing North Carolina alcohol laws.

            Finally, and probably the most drastic change, the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill expands distilleries’ ability to sell alcohol. Before the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, distilleries were limited in how they could conduct business on the distillery grounds. Before September 1, 2019, no drinks could be consumed on the premises of a distillery and customers could not buy more than five bottles per year directly from the distillery.[18] Now, thanks to the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, North Carolina allows distilleries to sell wine, beer, and mixed drinks on the distillery premises.[19] This new law could pave the way to distillery taprooms becoming much like the breweries across the state.[20] Moreover, the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill removes the 5 bottle per year cap on on-premises liquor sales for off-premises consumption.[21] This change, along with a few others contained in the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, represent a big step forward in relaxing and modernizing the North Carolina alcohol regulation system.

            In sum, the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill represents a large step forward for North Carolina alcohol laws. Although some of the changes may seem small, each change in the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill shows that the North Carolina Legislature is listening to its constituents and is responding to their concerns.[22] All of the changes represented in the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill should excite customers and stimulate business for both breweries and distilleries. 

[1] Richard Craver, Cooper signs bill allowing dogs and cats to be inside N.C. breweries that don’t prepare food, Winston-Salem J. (Jul. 30, 2019),

[2] Id.

[3] Leigh Tauss, Governor Cooper Signs Bill to Loosen Restrictions on Distilleries, Indy Week (Jul. 30, 2019),

[4] Sarah Willetts, North Carolina Loves Its Liquor, Even if Its Booze Laws Are Stuck in the Past, Indy Week (Nov. 2, 2018),

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.; Leigh Tauss, With Roy Cooper’s Signature, N.C. Distilleries Can Become Cocktail Bars, Indy Week (Jul. 17, 2019),

[9] Mackensy Lunsford, Looser liquor laws let you buy more than 1 beer, even in dry counties, Asheville Citizen Times (Aug. 21, 2019),

[10] Edwin Arnaudin, Governor Cooper Signs Bill to Loosen Restrictions on Distilleries, Mountain Xpress (Aug. 21 2019),

[11] Craver, supra note 1.

[12] 2019 N.C. Sess. Laws 11.

[13] Id.

[14] Tauss, supra note 3.

[15] 2019 N.C. Sess. Laws 10–11.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Tauss, supra note 4.

[19] 2019 N.C. Sess. Laws 1.

[20] Leigh Tauss, The General Assembly Might Turn Every N.C. Distillery Into a Cocktail Bar, Indy Week (Jun. 25, 2019),

[21] 2019 N.C. Sess. Laws 4.

[22] Prior to the ABC Regulatory Reform Bill, Wise Man Brewing circulated a petition to change the law. This petition was then sent to the governments of Forsyth and Guilford Counties. Craver, supra note 1.