Politics & Government

Late-partying Republicans? State bill could keep bars open later during RNC

When the Republican National Convention comes to Charlotte next year, the last call for alcohol at bars and restaurants could happen later than usual.

Legislation that emerged Monday in the N.C. House Rules Committee would create a special exemption during the RNC for North Carolina’s longstanding law that cuts off alcohol sales at 2 a.m.

If the new version of Senate Bill 191 becomes law, bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Mecklenburg County and neighboring counties could continue serving alcohol until 4 a.m. between Aug. 22, 2020, and Aug. 30, 2020.

The provision was added Monday in a new version of SB 191, which also would allow out-of-state law enforcement officers to have policing powers to provide extra security for the convention.

And while the provision is intended to extend RNC festivities later into the night, the provision would apply to all businesses with on-premises alcohol sales in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell counties.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, explained that the change was requested by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, which is working on convention preparations. He said neighboring counties are included because many convention attendees may be staying in hotels outside of Mecklenburg County because of the size of the RNC event. “These really are regional events,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, noted that the legislation allowing extra security for the 2012 Democratic National Convention didn’t have any alcohol sales exceptions. He was one of several audible “no” votes when the Rules Committee voted in support of the bill.

But Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland, said the extra hours of alcohol sales would provide an economic boost.

“I see this as a win-win, moneymaking situation,” Floyd said. “At 4:30, they can switch over and get breakfast, and we can get tax dollars there.”

SB 191 heads to the House floor later this week, but the Senate will also need to approve the addition of late-night alcohol to the bill.

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service. Follow him at NCInsider.com or @RaleighReporter. Write to him at ccampbell@ncinsider.com.