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The fees would not be required to be paid until 90 days after all executive orders affecting ABC permittees are rescinded or allowed to expire.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

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.

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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