NC Brunch Bill Passes (and it’s not just about early alcohol sales)

Our friends and clients in the hospitality industry have reason to celebrate.

Last week, Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) signed the “Brunch Bill” into law, making it legal for bars, restaurants, and retail stores to sell alcohol earlier on Sundays.  That’s encouraging news for those in the hospitality business, but it doesn’t mean you’ll see mimosas on the Sunday brunch menu just yet.  Here’s why.

Senate Bill 155, which passed both the NC Senate and House last month, granted permission for restaurants and bars to start serving alcohol starting at 10:00 a.m., two hours earlier than previously permitted.  Retail stores were also granted permission to begin selling at 10 a.m.  However, that’s just state law.  Each county and city government will have decide for themselves if early alcohol sales will be allowed in their areas, and local ordinances will have to be changed.  It’s very likely we’ll see a variety of responses across the state.

But early alcohol sales aren’t the only changes included in the bill. There are distinct changes we feel are important to our friends and clients in the distilling and craft beer industry as well:

  • 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.
  • A provision to allow distilleries to offer quarter-ounce samples at festivals, trade shows, and other events (permit required).
  • A provision to allow breweries located on farms in “dry counties” to sell their beer despite local laws prohibiting sales (special permit required).
  • A provision to allow the sale of 32-ounce sealed cans of beer (“crowlers”).
  • A provision to allow home brewers of beer and wine to offer tastings at home brewing events.
  • A provision to allow breweries to offer “guest taps” of beverages produced elsewhere (many do this already — now the law is more clear).

Note that a provision allowing distilleries to ship their products to consumers in other states was removed in the House.

Not surprisingly, those in the hospitality industry are ecstatic about the potential changes.  I spoke with a client this week (who asked to remain anonymous) about the Brunch Bill, and the impact he thinks it will have on his restaurants in the Lake Norman area. “I think a lot of restaurant owners are celebrating because it will bring in earlier sales and the chance to create some creative new cocktails to accompany our morning menus,” he said. “Regulations about over serving will be on our minds, though, just as they are in the afternoons and evenings.  No one is going to take this as a pass to over serve our guests.”

As for when Charlotte, Lake Norman, and even Hendersonville will see the expanded alcohol hours? “Soon,” he said. “These places see themselves as destination towns.  I think we’ll see change sooner than later, even if there is some objection to the idea.”

If you’re in the business of serving or selling alcohol, keep your eye on your local city council and county commission. They’re about to make some significant decisions about how you do business.

Cheers!

 

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