Supporters of North Carolina’s “brunch bill” may have felt a mimosa-sized hole in their hearts Thursday night when a key legislative deadline passed without the proposal advancing.
For the most part, bills that hadn’t been approved by either the House or the Senate by then are now dead.
But the main sponsor of the bill to pave the way for earlier Sunday drinking at restaurants isn’t worried and says Bloody Mary fans won’t have to wait until the next legislative session to push for changes.
“I would anticipate that you would see (the bill) back on the agenda within the next couple weeks,” said Sen. Rick Gunn, a Burlington Republican, citing an exemption from the deadline.
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In North Carolina, restaurants are banned from serving alcohol before noon on Sundays.
Gunn’s bill wouldn’t change that restriction anywhere. Instead, it would give city and county elected officials the ability to vote to move back the Sunday start time to as early as 10 a.m. Hotel and restaurant owners back the bill.
Loosening the rules would arguably lead to more alcohol sales, and therefore more tax revenue. And since bills that deal with revenue are exempt from Thursday’s deadline, Gunn said his bill is still alive.
Its formal name is the Economic & Job Growth for NC Distilleries Act, a sign that brunch isn’t the only industry it targets.
If the bill becomes law it would make several other business-friendly tweaks to the state’s alcohol laws.
People would be able to buy five bottles of liquor directly from a distillery each year, instead of just one. And distilleries would be able to offer small samples to visitors on facility tours.
Distilleries could hold tasting events at festivals, fundraisers and other such events. The bill would also allow ABC stores to hold promotional tastings for distilleries, similar to the beer and wine tastings that are already allowed at grocery stores.
The bill has bipartisan backing but still isn’t guaranteed to pass.
Gunn’s fellow Republican Sen. Kathy Harrington of Gastonia is a sponsor, as is the top Senate Democrat, Raleigh Sen. Dan Blue. However, the bill has faced opposition from Republican leaders from more rural counties, and from the Christian Action League.
Changes to auction rules
Gunn says another bill he sponsored that didn’t meet the crossover deadline still has legs.
It would allow bottles of liquor to be auctioned in North Carolina – but only by nonprofit groups – which could be a lucrative type of fundraising.
The bill would also let auction and raffle hosts serve alcohol at those events.
Doing so is already common, and Gunn said it shouldn’t be outlawed.
“It’s illegal to have alcohol in the room where the auction is going on,” he said. “Now, I haven’t ever been to one of those things that didn’t have alcohol.”
However, it would remain illegal for hosts of bingo games to sell alcohol or allow anyone to drink.
Finally, the bill would let charities hold more raffles each year (four, instead of two) and would double the value of prizes those raffles could offer, to $250,000 per year total.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran