The Sabbath is getting a little bit boozier for many across the state.
On June 30, 2017, Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill that quickly became known as the “Brunch Bill.” Among its several provisions, the legislation allows businesses, including grocery stores, restaurants, and bars, to begin serving alcohol at 10:00am on Sunday instead of the noontime start residents have known for years.
The bill also offers a big bump to the state’s 40 craft distilleries, whose on-site sales are heavily regulated by the ABC board. Now, people who tour distilleries can buy up to five bottles a year directly from the distillery, instead of just one. Distillers can also now buy a permit that allows them to offer 1/4-ounce samples at festivals and events. That can potentially make a big difference to local labels like Troy & Sons Whiskey and H&H Distillery.
While the bill is not without controversy, hospitality staff, restaurant owners, and brunch goers across the state and throughout Asheville have shown voluble support of the bill. Supporters have been using the #FreeTheMimosa hashtag across social media to show their support of the potential influx of revenue. Corner Kitchen co-owner Kevin Westmoreland had this to say in a recent opinion column:
“The Brunch Bill would allow North Carolinians and visitors alike to celebrate with a toast before noon, all while stimulating our local economies…..
“Other states that have extended alcohol sales on Sundays have noted restaurants and their staff earning considerably more taxable revenue per year; we believe the same would result in North Carolina. This is valuable additional revenue that would allow restaurants to hire more employees, employees to earn a better living and for each to better meet guest’s demands. It would also be a valuable source of revenue for local governments that can be used to improve the quality of life for all citizens.”
But the governor signing the recent bill into law didn’t mean that NC residents automatically saw changes in their hometowns. While the bill allows for the sale on a state level, it is up to local municipalities to approve the earlier alcohol sales for their communities.
The Brunch Bill so far has seen wide support across the state, especially from restaurant and business owners. It has been approved in Wilmington and passed unanimously in Charlotte. According to Blue Ridge Public Radio, Hendersonville was the first to pass the law locally, followed by Laurel Park and Mills River, also in Henderson County.
And for a city like Asheville—ripe with breweries, craft distilleries, and original cocktails of all kinds—that two-hour window could mean a big boost in revenue. But that doesn’t mean the change is guaranteed.
Regardless of the direction council will vote, several provisions of the bill are already in place. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Retail and grocery stores and taprooms with the proper equipment are now allowed to fill growlers, or 32-ounce fillable cans, for to-go beer. To-go wine sales are also allowed under the new laws.”
The Brunch Bill provision is on the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting. We still have several hours before we know how Council will vote. One thing is for certain: If they vote in favor, there are many throughout the city ready to toast to the change.
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