North Carolina is using the COVID pandemic to perpetuate its antagonistic relationship with alcohol that started in the early 1700s. Governor Roy Cooper has utilized executive orders to ensure that one of the only businesses in North Carolina not free to operate at least in a limited capacity during the COVID pandemic are the bars and nightclubs. The state already has a complete monopoly of alcohol sales and total control over the sale and licensing.
Cooper’s Executive Order 153 stops the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries at 11:00 P.M. Cooper’s ban on alcohol sales after refusing to allow bars or nightclubs to be open is unnecessarily overreaching to continue North Carolina’s tradition of controlling when and how people can drink.
On any given Saturday night in Kinston, patrons can find bar-like atmospheres at any number of the local restaurants that serve liquor. The Herritage having no option to open while HOW II, The Laughing Owl, and others can serve mixed drinks to their customers at the bar only offer confusion and anger with no rational reasoning to showcase the difference. Also, how does having a beer at 10:59 p.m. lessen the chance of a customer getting the coronavirus?
Cooper isn’t the first politician in North Carolina to attempt to limit the sale and consumption of alcohol. In 1908, the voters of North Carolina became the first state in the south to approve a prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages across the state. Congress repealed Prohibition with the 21st Amendment giving states the ability to enact their own alcohol laws, but North Carolina chose to continue prohibition after the federal law passed repealing it.
North Carolina and Virginia are among 17 states that have government monopolies of both wholesale and retail operations of alcohol sales that are heavily regulated by the ABC commission. While beer can be purchased at gas stations and grocery stores, liquor must be purchased at a local ABC store. The inconsistent rules between restaurants that serve alcohol and bars that serve food have forced bar and nightclub owners to choose between the failure of their small business, or remain compliant with the many laws and regulations that control the sale and consumption of liquor. It’s apparently fine for the state-run ABC stores to make money off alcohol, but not local bars and nightclubs.
Because of this decision, bars and nightclubs across the state are in jeopardy of closing. With no revenue since March, it would be difficult for any business to remain open. Cooper has put a target on bars and nightclubs without offering any substantial recourse for the people dependent on them for survival.
When politics prevent economic growth and development in any capacity, it’s the duty of the voters to ensure those in power are held accountable for their actions. No governor should have the power to force small businesses into bankruptcy while allowing other entities to sell and serve the same products including his own state government.