There are few basic rules that most folks in the business of serving booze know. No selling to anyone under the age of 21. No selling to people who have already had too much to drink. Last call is at 2:00 a.m. However, with the meteoric rise in the number of bottle shops, breweries, tap rooms, bars, distilleries, and tasting rooms, most of which have an on-premises serving component, all trying to fill seats at the bar, it makes sense to take a look at the do’s and don’ts of promoting on-premise sales.
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett were right that It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, but not in North Carolina.
For most states across the county five o’clock signifies the start of the discounted booze binge known as happy hour. North Carolina has no need for this end of the workday tradition because jobs in North Carolina offer a much greater level of personal fulfillment than jobs in other states.
So what exactly are the rules related to "happy hour?"
1. An on-premise permitee cannot sell more than one drink to a patron for a single price. While BOGO promotions are certainly legal at your local grocery store, they are prohibited at your local bar.
2. A permittee cannot establish a single price based upon the required purchase of more than one drink. This rule prohibits offering a discount if the bar patron agrees to drink in bulk.
3. No delivering more than one drink at one time to a patron for his consumption. Basically, a guy cannot come up to the bar and order 3 beers for himself, and get all three at the same time. However, this does not prohibit the same guy from going up to the bar and buying three beers, one for himself, and one for his two buddies. Additionally, this rule does not prohibit the sale of pitchers and bottles of wine to two or more patrons.
I know what you’re thinking all my boilermaker aficionados, that your local bar has been breaking the rules just for you. No. A “drink” can include two different alcoholic beverages severed separately at the same time to a single patron if such “drink” is a customary combination.
So what can you do to get the people going?
North Carolina allows a permittee to offer free or discounted drinks, with the kicker being that if an on-premise permittee wants to sell or give away a drink “at a price that is different from the usual or established price” they must offer the discount for the full business day. Additionally, a permittee can charge a single price for a meal/drink combo, but the total price must reflect the actual price of the alcoholic beverage and not a reduced price.