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Governor signs first bars relief bill into law

Governor signs first bars relief bill into law

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Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Thursday a state House bill that extends for bars the payment deadline for certain ABC permit renewals.

“The pandemic has hit bar owners hard, and this bill offers needed relief from the burden of fees as they work to keep their businesses afloat and create more jobs,” Cooper said in a statement.

The Senate cleared House Bill 4 by a 47-0 vote on Feb. 16.

The bill cleared the House by a 116-1 vote on Feb. 4, as well as a 118-0 vote Feb. 17 to accept Senate changes.

The bill’s language was changed by the Senate Commerce and Insurance committee and also amended on the Senate floor, including clarifying that bars and restaurants still have to pay their taxes on time.

The legislation is effective retroactively to June 30, 2020.

The fees would not be required to be paid until 90 days after all executive orders affecting ABC permittees are rescinded or allowed to expire.

ABC permittees are required to request a delay to paying their permit fees. They also can request a temporary refund of paid fees.

HB4 also directs the ABC Commission to reinstate or reactivate select ABC permits that were canceled or moved to inactive status during 2020.

“House Bill 4 will give private bars and small business owners (a) reprieve until they are back at full capacity,” said Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Henderson, and chairman of the House Alcohol Beverage Council committee.

“The committee will continue to advocate for N.C. businesses and plans to file additional relief legislation to help even more restaurants, bars and businesses across the state recover from the COVID pandemic.”

The ABC permit renewal fees issue became a focal point in early January when about 120 bar owners found out that their private bar permits had been canceled for non-payment, even though the owners were not able to operate their businesses.

A bipartisan House Bill 73 essentially picks up from where House Bill 4 ends.

The familiar tinkling of ceramic cups and chatter returned to coffee bars across most of Italy on Monday, as rigid Covid-19 restrictions were eased. After severe curbs over the Christmas and New Year period, two-thirds of Italy was declared a "yellow zone" allowing bars in those less risky areas to serve customers at counters and tables again instead of offering only take-away in plastic cups.

HB73, which has Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, as a co-primary sponsor, would waive permit fees from May 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022. The bill would become effective when signed into law.

The bill cleared the House Alcohol Beverage Council committee Wednesday and was forwarded to Finance committee.

The bill would cover 13 types of permits: on-premises malt beverage; on-premises unfortified wine; on-premises fortified wine; mixed beverages; culinary; mixed beverages catering; guest room cabinet; wine tasting; wine shop; malt beverage tasting; spirituous liquor tasting; antique spirituous liquor; and common area entertainment.

Bar owners that have prepaid ABC permit fees for 2021-22 could request a refund.

Lambeth said there would be an estimated $25 million in permit fees affected by the waiver.

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@rcraverWSJ

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