Steve Carey ran four miles from his Raleigh home to be the first Trophy Brewing customer served at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The 38-year-old was one of about 50 runners who filled the Maywood Avenue bar to celebrate a new North Carolina law allowing alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. They started counting down at 9:59 a.m. as the bartender filled Carey’s glass with a “Keg Toss” Guava Saison.
“Three, two, one, wooo!” they yelled as bar co-owner David Meeker relayed the time on his watch. Seajay Jamison, 45, raised her fist in the air as Carey took his first sip.
“Progress!” she said.
Sunday was the first day that N.C. businesses could sell alcohol before noon on Sunday with local government approval after Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the “brunch bill on June 30. North Carolina until then was one of only three states to prohibit Sunday morning alcohol sales, according to the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. The association lobbied for the new law on Jones Street and on social media using the hashtag #FreeTheMimosa.
The law doesn’t automatically allow Sunday morning alcohol sales but enables local governments to permit it at their discretion. Raleigh, Carrboro and Hendersonville were among the first to adopt the earlier sales last week.
On Sunday, many bars and restaurants in those towns celebrated by opening early and offering special menu items.
In Raleigh, a staffer at Humble Pie signaled the start of alcohol sales by blowing into a conch shell. Acme Food & Beverage in Carrboro marked the day by offering Bloody Marys served with Chapel Hill-based TOPO vodka.
Acme bar manager Brian Toomey said he’s relieved that he’ll never again have to explain the old laws to a disappointed customer trying to order a mimosa before noon on a Sunday.
“It definitely comes up every brunch. At least once or twice every brunch,” Toomey said.
Business advocates see the two-hour change making a significant difference. Restaurants and bars could collect $25,000 in additional revenue each year if their local government endorses the new law, the restaurant association estimates.
Toomey said Acme could see a big upswing in drink sales on Sunday mornings before UNC basketball games.
“On weekends, especially on game days, I think there will be a big difference,” he said.
The law’s supporters say it will stimulate the economy by bolstering business revenue and tips for waiters. It may also change business hours. Some places that don’t serve brunch may see a reason to start, said Jennifer Martin, executive director of the Shop Local Raleigh advocacy group.
“If there’s a big enough increase in revenue, there could even be an increase in jobs,” Martin said.
“The bill is sensitive to business interests but insensitive to churches and unintentionally undercuts the kind of environment that supports the efforts of religion to have a maximum impact for good on the culture,” M.H. Cavanaugh wrote on the group’s website.
But many patrons on Sunday raised their glasses not only to their new freedom but also to celebrate what they see as a victory.
“It’s an antiquated law,” said Carey, the runner at Trophy. He’s 38.
“We should have the freedom and the option to make this choice,” Jamison said.
Rebecca Occhipinti, 42, suggested the faith community has become more flexible over the years to better meet the needs of worshipers. Occhipinti attends Hope Community Church in Raleigh, which holds services on Saturday and Sunday.
“Now we have choices. I can either run to church” on Sunday, she said. “Or I can run to the brewery and go to church on Saturday.”
Leonardo Valenzuela, 31, thinks the new law will improve North Carolina’s reputation nationwide. The Chile native sipped a Bloody Mary at Humble Pie on Sunday and reflected on how the law blocked him from ordering alcohol when he visited Raleigh last November.
“Ever since then I had been making fun of it,” he said.
Chile, however, has laws that North Carolinians might consider backward, Valenzuela said. For example, he said the Chilean government doesn’t allow alcohol sales on Election Day.