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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Brown Bagging

Brown bagging was the widespread practice of customers bringing liquor into restaurants in brown paper bags, purchasing soft drink set-ups and then mixing their own drinks at the table. Brown bagging was legalized in North Carolina in 1967. Until then, public drinking of liquor had been illegal since 1908. The first liquor-by-the-drink sale in the state occurred amidst much fanfare in Charlotte in November 1978.

Brown bagging originally was Air Force slang for a married man who carried his lunch in a brown paper bag. A "brown-bagger" eventually came to mean simply a married man in the military.


Luther Hodges, "Not 'If' But 'When': Liquor by the Drink," Charlotte Magazine (Spring 1976).

Additional Resources:

1923 law outlawing selling of liquor with purchased meal, NCDCR Digital Collections :

Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission:

1981 law describing brown bagging permist, NCDCR Digital Collections: