Alcohol sales before noon on Sundays could come soon to rural Johnston County.
The county Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing Monday on allowing alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. Sundays in stores and restaurants in unincorporated Johnston. The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the commissioners' meeting room in the courthouse in Smithfield.
Already in Johnston, the towns of Clayton and Smithfield allow alcohol sales before noon on Sunday. On Monday, county commissioners could extend those sales to areas outside the corporate limits of Johnston's 10 towns.
The proposed ordinance contains wording that suggests it enjoys the support of most commissioners. It says, for example, that "Sunday morning alcohol services will allow the hospitality community and retail merchants in our county to meet the needs of their customers."
Also, earlier alcohol sales on Sunday would boost Johnston businesses and county tax coffers, the ordinance says. Sunday morning sales "will benefit the county's small-business community, bring people into business districts earlier in the day and generate increased tax revenues," the ordinance says..
Finally, the proposed ordinance notes that Sunday isn't the only day when Johnston residents worship. "Our county has a diverse and growing population with different religious beliefs, each of which has various times and multiple days for worship," it says.
North Carolina lawmakers last year passed the so-called "Brunch Bill," which allows restaurants and grocery stores to start selling alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. instead of noon, as long as local government boards approve the the change.
In voicing support for the ordinance, Commissioner Jeff Carver, the board's chairman, said Johnston shouldn't keep its businesses at a competitive disadvantage. "I support giving Johnston County’s retail business owners the same opportunity as competitors in surrounding counties," he said.
Fellow Commissioner Chad Stewart said he was not opposed to alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. "But I greatly respect those that may be opposed to it," he said.
"If it passes," Stewart added, "it is not forcing anyone to order alcohol before noon. That's their individual choice."