In the final days of its recent session, the N.C. General Assembly passed the “Brunch Bill,” but it is still unknown whether local restaurants will be serving Sunday morning mimosas.
Senate Bill 155 was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper. It will allow alcohol to be served on Sunday mornings in North Carolina beginning at 10 a.m. Prior to its passage, the state’s “Blue Laws” made it illegal to sell or serve alcohol on Sundays before noon.
However, the Brunch Bill doesn’t offer an absolute right to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings to businesses.
“It does require a local ordinance,” said N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens, who represents Surry County in the N.C. House of Representatives and serves as the chamber’s Speaker Pro Tem.
Stevens explained that the bill simply allows municipalities and counties to set their own policies. If those entities so choose, they can pass an ordinance allowing Sunday morning alcohol sales. If they take no action, the law in their respective communities will remain the same, with no alcohol sales allowed until noon.
Stevens said she “somewhat reluctantly” voted yes on the measure, which passed the House by a margin of 73-40 and the N.C. Senate by a 37-9 vote.
N.C. Sen. Shirley Randleman, the other half of Surry County’s delegation to the General Assembly, voted against the measure.
“Church services are usually out by 12 or 12:30, so I didn’t fully understand or agree with it,” said Randleman.
Randleman explained that she believes the state is headed down a road in which it will eventually do away with North Carolina’s Blue Laws in whole, and she doesn’t like the trend.
“I still hold Sundays in high regard and reverence, as do many people who live in our district,” added Randleman.
Stevens, however, said she knew of some businesses in her district which might benefit from the ability to serve alcohol prior to noon on Sundays.
She noted she may see some backlash from the vote, as some religious groups were opposed to the bill’s passage. However, she sees her vote as backing religious liberty.
“It comes down to a matter of whose religion are we respecting,” said Stevens, who went to explain that her district includes folks of many religions.
“Seventh-day Adventists go to church on Saturdays, and Catholics hold Mass on Saturdays,” noted Stevens, who explained that she can’t favor one religion over others which might meet on different days of the week or at different times on Sundays. “Some churches hold worship services earlier on Sundays.”
Any concerns regarding alcohol sales on Sunday mornings are mute, however, until one of Surry County’s four municipalities or the Surry County Board of Commissioners passes an ordinance allowing such sales, as at least two other communities in North Carolina have done.
This weekend, Sunday morning alcohol sales will be permitted in Raleigh and Carrboro, after the governing bodies of the two cities approved ordinances which will allow businesses to serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m., according to an Associated Press report.
However, as of Thursday, no plans for such a move were being considered by the governing bodies of the county and the town of Dobson.
Conchita Atkins, the clerk to the county board, said her board has shown no intentions of considering an ordinance related to Sunday morning alcohol sales, as such an ordinance had not been filed to be placed on the county board’s agenda at its next meeting on July 17.
In Dobson, Finance Officer Laura Neely noted town hall had received a few inquiries about the matter. However. she had no idea whether the Dobson Board of Commissioners had any immediate plans to consider such an ordinance.
Town Commissioner John Lawson added he knew of no discussion regarding Sunday morning alcohol sales among his fellow board members. That stated, he would not necessarily be opposed to such an ordinance.
Mount Airy City Manager Barbara Jones did not return an email inquiring as to whether the city board might soon consider a Sunday morning alcohol sales ordinance.
Five bottles is better than one
The bill also loosens restrictions on the craft distillery industry. Prior to the passage of the Brunch Bill, distilleries were allowed to only sell one bottle of liquor per year to a person. Senate Bill 155 will allow them to sell up to five.
“This helps particularly in the area of tourism,” said Vann McCoy, who owns Mayberry Spirits, a craft distillery in Mount Airy.
“People come through who would like to buy more than one bottle,” explained McCoy after noting more than half of the folks who visit his North South Street distillery are from out of town. “They aren’t interested when you tell them they need to find the ABC store to buy additional bottles.”
McCoy sells multiple flavors of his “moonshine,” and he said many customers would like to purchase more than one of his products. Now they can leave his distillery and others with up to five products.
Noting that he makes a little more money on liquor sold in house than that which is sold at ABC stores, McCoy said, “It will raise revenue a little bit for us, and it also provides an incentive for people to come back and see us again.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.