City Council OKs earlier sale of alcohol on Sundays

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mimosas, Bloody Marys and other alcoholic beverages may be sold two hours earlier this coming Sunday in Washington.

With a 4-1 vote during its meeting Monday, the Washington City Council amended its ordinances to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages to begin at 10 a.m. The amended ordinances took effect immediately. Previously, such sales could not begin until noon. Voting for the amendment were council members Virginia Finnerty, Richard Brooks, William Pitt and Larry Beeman. Councilman Doug Mercer voted against the change.

Since the new law allowing such sales took effect earlier this summer, several municipalities such as Chocowinity, New Bern, Surf City and Charlotte now allow such sales. The law also applies to counties. Last month, Hyde County began allowing earlier sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

The law does not put these sales into practice directly, but rather gives individual municipalities the power to vote and adopt a measure if they choose.

Mercer said the new law’s popular label as the “brunch bill” is misleading. “Everyone has talked about the ‘bunch bill.’ The indication is this bill, or this ordinance, is going to allow our restaurants at 10 o’clock. I don’t disagree because that’s exactly what will happen in this case. … What does concern me is that this bill is far broader than just the restaurants. It says any store in Washington that has license to sell beer or spirituous (drinks) can start selling at 10 o’clock in the morning. That means that Wal-Mart … and anything else that sells beer can now begin to sell beer at 10 o’clock on Sunday morning,” Mercer said. “It means that every bar in the city of Washington can open up and start selling drinks by 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s not a ‘brunch bill.’ It’s a bill that allows the sale of alcohol at 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, and I will vote against it.”

Finnerty immediately told Mercer he is wrong in his assessment of the new law. “Actually, you’re wrong, sir. In order to sell alcohol to consume on the property, you have to have an (on-site permit). Wal-Mart cannot sell alcohol for you to consume it at Wal-Mart,” she said. “You have to have a special permit. You have on-premise and off-premise.”

Mercer asked City Attorney Franz Holscher if the new law and the city’s ordinances do not limit on-site and off-site consumption. Holscher said that is the case.

Bill Clark, a city resident, spoke in favor of allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages beginning at 10 a.m. Sundays. He said doing so would help the local economy and increase sales-tax revenue for the city, helping keep property taxes down.

Justin Pate, owner of the Ribeyes steakhouse in Washington, also spoke in favor of changing the city’s ordinances to allow such sales. “What I would like to do is open at 10 o’clock in the morning and open a Bloody Mary bar/champagne bar. So, obviously, I need you to (approve this) so I can add this to my restaurant,” Pate said.

Mayor Mac Hodges voiced support for the change, saying failing to allow such sales to begin two hours earlier on Sundays “would make us look like a backwards county.”


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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