North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. With that growth comes a more diverse population with evolving cultures and traditions. Among those is a taste for Sunday brunch and the mimosa or bloody Marys that go with it. Unfortunately, due to current “blue laws,” patrons can’t enjoy these alcoholic beverages in North Carolina until after 12 p.m.
A bill in the legislature would change the law, giving cities and towns the option to let restaurants begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. For municipalities that don’t agree with the option, there’s no pressure to opt in. For places where business is driven heavily by tourism or where local residents demand more choices, this bill offers a positive change that can help restaurants meet customer demands, grow business, create jobs, increase tax revenue and bring patrons into business districts earlier in the day.
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When North Carolina’s current laws were put on the books, few stores or restaurants opened at all on Sunday. Church services started at 11 a.m., and few offered more than one service. In areas where that’s still true, nothing needs to change. In many areas, though, the population is much more diverse and most houses of worship offer multiple services, including many that are finished before 10 a.m. on Sunday or take place on another day of the week.
This bill offers options to diners and helps restaurants expand. Allowing alcoholic beverages with brunch gives dining establishments a source of revenue that encourages places that are already serving to open earlier, while encouraging places that aren’t to start offering brunch as an option. To meet those needs, the industry will need more servers and cooks, providing more jobs and money to local coffers.
Alabama just passed a bill that will extend alcohol sales on Sunday and is predicted to provide restaurants with up to $25,000 more revenue each year. If Alabama can take this step to help local businesses, then certainly North Carolina can. In Georgia, a bill introduced in 2015 estimates that serving cocktails at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays would bring in an additional $100 million of taxable sales of food and drink. And in Virginia, the hours for Sunday alcohol sales are the same as every other day of the week. Clearly, the “brunch bill” in North Carolina would be good for both businesses and tax revenue.
The bill before the legislature recognizes that North Carolina is a diverse state and what works in one municipality might not work in another. It just gives towns and cities the authority to determine what is best for their locality.
For areas that want to increase the hours businesses can serve alcoholic beverages, it expands the tax base for local government. It provides jobs for people working in the hospitality industry. It gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to create businesses. It welcomes newcomers. And, finally, it helps bring people together to build stronger, healthier communities. We should all embrace North Carolina’s brunch bill.
Minges is president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.