HIGH COUNTRY — With hopes of an economic boost to restaurants, Gov. Roy Cooper authorized the North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to permit the delivery or carryout of mixed drinks.
The executive order allows restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages until 5 p.m. on January 31.
“This order will help people avoid settings that can contribute to increased viral spread while giving restaurants and bars a financial boost that they need right now,” Cooper said. “With cases and hospitalizations high around the country, let’s all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 while supporting local, small businesses safely.”
High Country law enforcement has seen few, if any, issues so far related to the order.
Andy LeBeau, chief of Boone Police, said because the provision requires the alcohol to be in some kind of sealed container, it makes it “pretty easy.”
“Either a container is sealed or it’s not and it is probably, hopefully, a good assumption that a delivery person will not be consuming the alcoholic beverage that they are supposed to be delivering,” LeBeau said. “Certainly each case that we encounter will be evaluated on the circumstances, but we are not anticipating a big problem with this issue.”
LeBeau said Boone Police hasn’t seen any problems yet, but is happy the governor is trying to help local businesses.
“We are happy that the governor is taking action to help our local businesses in a manner that is safe — assuming that the drinks are consumed at home and not in transport,” LeBeau said.
Major Kelly Redmon of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office also said they have not seen any problems.
Andy Stephenson, App State’s director of public safety and chief of App State police, said the order will not change anything his App State polices officers do in regard to open containers, DWI’s or underage drinking.
He also said he does not see any potential issues in enforcing this order.
“In fact, the order may help encourage people to avoid lingering in bars and restaurants and instead take their food and beverage orders home,” Stephenson said.
The order has had virtually no effect in the Banner Elk area, which hosts the majority of the county’s bars and alcohol-serving restaurants. According to Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges, local bars and alcohol-serving restaurants are not taking advantage of the order due to the restrictions that are included in it.
“We have not had any of our restaurants to date participate just because of the restrictions, which are pretty prohibitive on a business being able to do that,” Hodges said. “(Drinks) have to be labeled. The letters on the label have to be a certain height. It has to include all the ingredients in the drink, not just the alcohol, and it has to be sealed and not resealed. There are a whole lot of things the governor put in that order that make it really difficult to actually be accomplished.”
Additionally, most restaurants are now closing by 9 p.m., which is usually when many late night patrons begin arriving for drinks. After that time, restaurants cannot sell any alcoholic beverages in-house or to-go anyway due to the state’s modified “Stay At Home Order,” which remains in effect.
Beech Mountain also remains unaffected by Gov. Cooper’s order, since the town’s own bars and restaurants, much like Banner Elk’s, are unable to take advantage of the change in the law that is set to expire on Jan. 31.
“We’re not having that issue neither,” Beech Mountain Police Tim Barnett said.
Tapp Room in Boone sells three alcoholic beverages to-go in a sealed bottle.
“We’re grateful to be able to do it. But it’s kind of weird,” said Matt Manely, general manager at Tapp Room. It’s not anything that we’ve ever done before, and it’s something that’s easy to slip up on enforcement of. So we’ve had to take a lot of extra precautions to make sure that we’re doing it right.”
Manely said sales have been about the same since the executive order started. He said they mainly see people who are about to leave deciding to get a to-go beverage to drink at home.
Once App State students return in earnest for the spring semester, Manely said he thinks more people will buy the to-go drinks.
Luke Barber contributed reporting to this story.