Alcoholic Beverage Law

North Carolina ABC Commission Matters and the Hospitality Industry

Craft brewing, wineries, and distilled spirits manufacturers are thriving in North Carolina. Throughout the state, restaurants, event venues, and other retailers also offer alcoholic beverages as part of their business’s daily trade and brand image. North Carolina’s hospitality industry is dynamic and evolving at a rapid pace, but it is also highly regulated. Working with an experienced lawyer is essential for compliance with state and federal alcoholic beverage laws.

Any company whose work involves alcoholic beverages faces a complex mix of federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Franchising and distribution adds another layer of complexity for many businesses. North Carolina’s three-tier system of alcohol distribution presents regulatory challenges not found in any other industry.

The attorneys at Blanchard, Miller, Lewis & Isley have extensive experience representing breweries and hospitality industry clients before the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and other forums, as well as in litigation involving alcoholic beverage laws and regulations. Contact us today to discuss your situation in more detail.

From ABC to IRS: Agencies Involved in Alcoholic Beverage-Related Trades

The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) operates as part of the state’s Department of Public Safety “to provide uniform control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages in the state,” according to its website. Because North Carolina is a “local option” state, the question of whether to allow the sale of alcohol in a particular county or municipality is left to local voters. Today, the state has 50 county and 118 municipal ABC boards that operate retail stores and regulate the alcoholic beverage industry within North Carolina. Additionally, the state’s alcohol laws are applied and enforced statewide by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) division.

This wide geographic coverage and long list of responsibilities mean that ABC and ALE have wide-ranging powers. It also means that, for manufacturers, transporters, distributors, and retailers, contact with the ABC at some point during the business’s life is inevitable.

Fortunately, the North Carolina ABC Commission and its staff generally are as progressive and business-friendly as the laws allow them to be. They understand the economic benefits that accrue to the State as a result of the hard work of the businesses they regulate. For the great majority of businesses that operate responsibly, ABC adopts a can-do, pragmatic approach to solving problems. Over the past 15 years, our firm has developed a strong, professional working relationship with ABC staff and counsel, and as a result our clients often are surprised at the sensible and cost-effective solutions they are able to obtain from a government agency.

On the other hand, sometimes even the most responsible businesses find themselves on the receiving end of an ABC or ALE enforcement action. These cases run the gamut from underage sales to certain types of tax evasion. Sometimes, these agencies team up with local authorities to attempt to hold permittees responsible for actions of the public occurring near the permitted premises, but over which the business had no control.

When choosing an attorney, it is wise to choose a law firm with experience handling a wide range of business, litigation, and other legal matters that relate to businesses in the alcoholic beverage and hospitality industry. An attorney with broad-ranging experience is better equipped to spot potential conflicts or concerns and handle them before they become problems.

What Matters Is My Attorney Equipped to Handle?

“ABC law” is a broad category, and it covers more than merely matters before the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission itself. Our law firm was at the forefront of craft brewing’s emergence in North Carolina as an economic force, and has advocated for fairer laws and more balanced wholesaler relations on behalf of dozens of craft brewers in North Carolina and nationwide. We are one of the only firms in North Carolina (and likely the smallest firm) that combines an extensive alcoholic beverage industry practice with a broad-ranging litigation practice. That means that if we cannot get your problem solved through negotiation, you don’t have to turn to another firm to take the dispute to the courtroom. In addition to craft brewers, our firm has successfully represented large brewers and wineries, distillers, importers, wholesalers, taverns, restaurants, hotels, and large and small off-premises retailers before the ABC Commission and in litigation on a wide range of matters, including:

  • Industry member and retail permitting
  • Franchise law, including distribution agreements
  • Alcohol law enforcement
  • Franchise litigation
  • Contract and other business litigation
  • Zoning and land use matters
  • Rulemaking and legislation
  • Local, state, and federal legal compliance

How We Assist Our Clients

At BMLI, our attorneys work together closely to ensure that your legal needs are handled efficiently and effectively. We speak to our clients directly when necessary, and we prize discretion and confidentiality in our handling of business matters.

If you’re facing a matter before the ABC Commission or another government entity regarding your liquor license, franchise, or other business matter, contact our office today.