There are approximately 50,000 retail permits in North Carolina which authorize the retail sale of alcoholic beverages. The ABC Commission issues these permits to qualified persons and establishments in jurisdictions which have held ABC elections and approved the sale of alcoholic beverages. A list of Alcoholic Beverage Legal Sales Areas can be found here.
Applications for retail permits are accepted by mail or in person at the ABC Commission. Once received by the Commission, all application documents are reviewed by a permit specialist with a typical processing time of 7 to 10 days. Permit applicants visiting the ABC Commission are to be seen by a permit specialist by appointment only. If you do not have an appointment, you may leave your completed permit application packet with the receptionist or place it in the drop box at the ABC Commission. If issued, the temporary permit will be emailed.
Alcoholic beverage control laws and rules are detailed in North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 18B. The holder of an ABC permit shall ensure that the Commission’s rules governing the sale, possession, transportation, storage and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises are adhered to by employees and patrons. Failure to comply with the statutes or the rules of the Commission by permittees, employees and patrons may result in the suspension or revocation of all ABC permits held by a permittee.
The following excerpts are provided from Chapter 18B to assist you in understanding the retail permit process:
Requirements - To be eligible to receive and to hold an ABC permit, a person shall:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Be a resident of North Carolina unless:
- He is an officer, director or stockholder of a corporate applicant or permittee and is not a manager or otherwise responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business; or
- He has executed a power of attorney designating a qualified resident of this State to serve as attorney in fact for the purposes of receiving service of process and managing the business for which permits are sought; or
- Not have been convicted of a felony within three years, and, if convicted of a felony before then, has had his citizenship restored.
- Not have been convicted of an alcoholic beverage offense within two years.
- Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor controlled substance offense within two years.
- Not have had an alcoholic beverage permit revoked within three years, except where the revocation was based solely on a permittee's failure to pay the annual registration and inspection fee required in G.S. 18B-903(b1).
- Not have, whether as an individual or as an officer, director, shareholder or manager of a corporate permittee, an unsatisfied outstanding final judgment that was entered against him in an action under Article 1A of this Chapter.
- Be current in filing all applicable tax returns to the State and in payment of all taxes, interest, and penalties that are collectible under G.S. 105-241.22. This subdivision does not apply to the following ABC permits:
To avoid undue hardship, however, the Commission may decline to take action under G.S. 18B-104 against a permittee who is in violation of subdivisions (3), (4), or (5).
Definition of Conviction. - A person has been "convicted" for the purposes of subsection (a) when he has been found guilty, or has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, and judgment has been entered against him. A felony conviction in another jurisdiction shall disqualify a person from being eligible to receive or hold an ABC permit if his conduct would also constitute a felony in North Carolina. A conviction of an alcoholic beverage offense or misdemeanor drug offense in another jurisdiction shall disqualify a person from being eligible to receive or hold an ABC permit if his conduct would constitute an offense in North Carolina, unless the Commission determines that under North Carolina procedure judgment would not have been entered under the same circumstances. Revocation of a permit in another jurisdiction shall disqualify a person if his conduct would be grounds for revocation in North Carolina.
For an ABC permit to be issued to and held for a business, each of the following persons associated with that business must qualify under subsection:
- The owner of a sole proprietorship;
- Each member of a firm, association or general partnership;
- Each general partner in a limited partnership;
- Each manager and any member with a twenty-five percent (25%) or greater interest in a limited liability company;
- Each officer, director and owner of twenty-five percent (25%) or more of the stock of a corporation except that the requirement of subdivision No.(1) above, does not apply to such an officer, director, or stockholder unless he is a manager or is otherwise responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business;
- The manager of an establishment operated by a corporation other than an establishment with only off-premises malt beverage, off-premises unfortified wine, or off-premises fortified wine permits;
- Any manager who has been empowered as attorney- in-fact for a nonresident individual or partnership.
Who Issues -- All retail ABC permits shall be issued by the Commission. Before issuing a retail ABC permit, the Commission shall give notice of the permit application to the governing body of the city in which the establishment is located. If the establishment is not inside a city, the Commission shall give notice to the governing body of the county. The Commission shall allow the local governing body 15 days from the time the notice was mailed or delivered to file written objection to the issuance of the permit. To be considered by the Commission, the objection shall state the facts upon which it is based.
Factors in Issuing Permit -- Before issuing a permit, the Commission shall be satisfied that the applicant is a suitable person to hold an ABC permit and that the location is a suitable place to hold the permit for which he has applied. To be a suitable place, the establishment shall comply with all applicable building and fire codes. Other factors the Commission shall consider in determining whether the applicant and the business location are suitable are:
- The reputation, character, and criminal record of the applicant;
- Zoning laws;
- The recommendations of the local governing body; and
- Any other evidence that would tend to show whether the applicant would comply with the ABC laws and whether operation of his business at that location would be detrimental to the neighborhood.
- Whether the operation of the applicant's business at that location would be detrimental to the neighborhood, including evidence admissible under G.S. 150B-29(a) of any of the following:
- Past revocations, suspensions and violations of ABC laws by prior permittees related to or associated with the applicant, or a business with which the applicant is associated, within the immediate preceding 12-month period at this location
- Evidence of illegal drug activity on or about the licensed premises
- Evidence of fighting, disorderly conduct, and other dangerous activities on or about the licensed premises.
Commission Authority -- The Commission shall have the sole power, in its discretion, to determine the suitability and qualifications of an applicant for a permit.
Investigation -- Before issuing a new permit, the Commission, with the assistance of the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, shall investigate the applicant and the premises for which the permit is requested.
False Information -- Knowingly making a false statement in an application for an ABC permit shall be grounds for denying, suspending, revoking or taking other action against the permit and shall also be unlawful.
Duration -- Once issued, ABC permits shall be valid for the following periods, unless earlier surrendered, suspended or revoked.
- On-premises and off-premises malt beverage, unfortified wine, and fortified wine permits; culinary permits; and all permits listed in G.S. 18B-1100 shall remain valid indefinitely;
- Limited special occasion permits shall be valid for 48 hours before and after the occasion for which the permit was issued;
- Special one-time permits issued under G.S. 18B- 1002 shall be valid for the period stated on the permit;
- Temporary permits issued under G.S. 18B-905 shall be valid for 90 days; and
- All other ABC permits shall be valid for one year, from May 1 to April 30.
Renewal -- Application for renewal of an ABC permit shall be on a form provided by the Commission. An application for renewal shall be accompanied by an application fee. The application fee shall be the same amount as the initial fee set in G.S. 18B-902, except that the renewal application fee for each wine shop permit shall be five hundred dollars ($500.00), and the renewal application fee for each mixed beverages permit and each guest room cabinet permit shall be one thousand dollars ($1000). A renewal fee shall not be refundable.
Change in Ownership -- All permits for an establishment shall automatically expire and shall be surrendered to the Commission if:
Ownership of the establishment changes; or
There is a change in the membership of the firm, association or partnership owning the establishment, involving the acquisition of a twenty-five percent (25%) or greater share in the firm, association or partnership by someone who did not previously own a twenty-five percent (25%) or greater share; or
Twenty-five percent (25%) or more of the stock of the corporate permittee owning the establishment is acquired by someone who did not previously own twenty-five percent (25%) or more of the stock.
Transfer -- An ABC permit may not be transferred from one person to another or from one location to another
Name Change -- The Commission may issue new permits to a permittee upon application and payment of a fee of ten dollars ($ 10.00) for each location when the permittee's name (due to marriage/divorce) or name of the business is changed.
Who Receives Permit -- An ABC permit shall authorize the permitted activity only on the premises of the establishment named in the permit. An ABC permit shall be issued to the owner of the business conducted on the premises or to the management company employed to independently manage and operate the business. The ABC Commission may determine if a management agreement delegates sufficient managerial control and independence to a manager or management company to require an ABC permit to be issued to the manager.
Posting Permit -- Each ABC permit that is held by an establishment shall be posted in a prominent place on the premises.
Business Not Operating -- An ABC permit shall automatically expire and shall be surrendered to the Commission if the person to whom it is issued does not commence the activity authorized by the permit within six months of the date the permit is effective. Before the expiration of the six-month period, the Commission may waive this provision in individual cases for good cause.
Change in Management -- A corporation holding a permit for an establishment for which the manager is required to qualify as an applicant under G.S. 18B-900(c) shall, within 30 days after employing a new manager, submit to the Commission an application for substitution of a manager. The application shall be signed by the new manager, shall be on a form provided by the Commission, and shall be accompanied by a fee of ten dollars ($10.00). The fee shall not be refundable.
Lost Permits -- The Commission may issue duplicate ABC permits for an establishment when the existing valid permits have been lost or damaged. The request for duplicate permits shall be on a form provided by the Commission and accompanied by a fee of ten dollars ($10.00).