LUMBERTON — The regulation of Sunday alcohol sales in North Carolina has been relaxed with the stroke of the governor’s bill, but it will be up to local governments to decide if there will be an additional two hours on church day to enjoy a cold one.
A bill signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday opens the door for restaurants to start selling beer, wine and mixed drinks at 10 a.m. on Sundays, two hours before noon, which is now the law. The expanded hours also apply to retail sales of alcohol. The same bill also relaxes regulations around sampling at distilleries and breweries.
Burnis Wilkins, a Lumberton councilman and candidate for Robeson County sheriff, has no problem with the new law, but it would take a full vote from the council for it to be allowed in the city.
“Personally, I don’t have an issue with it,” he said. “You are only talking a couple of hours. And I’d say to those who aren’t in favor of it, simply, don’t frequent the establishments.”
Wilkins, who spent a decade working with Alcohol Law Enforcement, does not drink alcohol.
“I’m going to be in church at 10 o’clock anyway, so it won’t affect me anyhow,” Wilkins said.
Proponents of the law say it would help tourism and allow restaurants to benefit from the brunch business. Opponents fear it will exacerbate problems related to alcohol consumption.
“I feel that earlier access to alcohol would only enhance the underlying issues within the community,” Lumberton Councilman John Cantey said. “Being a Christian, I can’t dictate to people not to consume alcohol at any time and especially on Sunday but definitely will not support the obtaining of alcohol before church services.”
Cantey understands the law is aimed at increasing business revenue.
“I know there is talk about the revenue for the economy, but as I have always stated, not all money is not good money,” he said.
Robeson is a dry county that forbids the sale of beer, wine or liquor in unincorporated areas.
Robeson County’s legislators split on the bill. Sen. Danny Britt Jr. and Rep. Ken Goodman voted for the legislation. Reps. Charles Graham and Garland Pierce voted against the House version. Rep. Brenden Jones had an excused absence.
Carrboro was the first municipality to act on the “brunch bill.” Town leaders held a special meeting Monday to act on the legislation signed into law just three days before.
The law allows a town board to bring the issue up for vote, and also allows for residents to petition for a vote. It could also be done through a referendum.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly