'Brunch bill' for Sunday morning alcohol sales is headed to the governor

RALEIGH-- The “brunch bill” to allow alcohol sales at 10 a.m. on Sundays – instead of noon – passed a final Senate vote on Wednesday night and now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper, who’s expected to sign it.

The final vote was 39-7, an easy approval despite objections from some conservative legislators who worried it could affect church services and lead to more drunken-driving accidents. There was no debate on the bill Wednesday night.

The bill would allow restaurants to begin serving alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sundays, a major priority for the restaurant and hotel industry. Retail stores could also begin selling alcohol at 10 a.m. Local governments would have to agree to the earlier hours.

The N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association praised the bill’s passage in a news release. “This is an exciting new option for the hospitality industry,” CEO Lynn Minges said. “North Carolina joins 47 other states that allow some form of early Sunday sales of alcohol. The passage of SB 155 will help restaurants to better meet the needs of their guests, particularly where tourism drives business or where local residents demand more choices.”

The bill also includes a provision allowing craft distilleries to sell up to five bottles of their liquor to visitors who tour their facility, up from one bottle under current law. Distilleries could also offer quarter-ounce samples at festivals, trade shows and other events, if they obtain a permit.

A provision allowing distilleries to ship their products to consumers in other states was removed from the final version of the bill in the House.

Other provisions include looser regulations on craft breweries. The new version of the bill would allow breweries located on farms to sell their beer even if they’re located in a dry county where alcohol sales aren’t allowed outside city limits – as long as the local government agrees to issue a permit.

The bill also would allow the sale of “crowlers,” which are 32-ounce sealed cans of beer. It would allow home brewers of beer and wine to offer tastings at home brewing events. And it would allow breweries to offer “guest taps” of beverages produced elsewhere – something that many already do under an unclear law.

The majority of the bill, including the Sunday morning alcohol sales, would take effect as soon as the governor signs it.

Colin Campbell
The News & Observer