Durham has been one of the last large municipalities in the Triangle to act after Gov. Roy Cooper signed the “brunch bill” June 30, giving restaurants the green light to begin serving alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon.
Local government boards have to formally approve the law, which also applies to alcohol sales in stores. Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Carrboro agreed almost immediately in early July.
During their work session on Monday, the county ommissioners unanimously approved alcohol sales before noon on Sundays at licensed premises.
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The only question the commissioners had before the vote was what businesses outside the city limits might hold Sunday brunches.
Wendy Jacobs, chairwoman, noted that by voting Monday afternoon, the commissioners did so before the City Council, which was expected to vote Monday night.
"So we have taken the lead on this issue," Jacobs said.
According to a survey by Beyu Caffe and the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, about 79 percent of the 49 restaurants they surveyed favored quick action by the City Council on the brunch bill.
The council did not, however, decide to call a special meeting to speed up the city’s adoption of the ordinance.
“It has certainly been a source of frustration for us to watch Durham lag so far behind the rest of the Triangle on this issue,” Robert Preston, general manager of Rue Cler, wrote in an email. “We suspect that our Sunday sales over the recent month have been impacted in some small way by having missed the party.”
Dorian Bolden, an owner of Beyu Caffe, said the additional two hours of alcohol sales on Sunday would benefit his restaurant and his patrons – especially as Durham becomes more of a weekend destination for travelers.
“We are seeing a lot more customers and tourists on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” he said. “Being able to offer a mimosa at 10 o’clock is an added amenity.”
Bolden added he was disappointed Durham couldn’t have been at the forefront of adopting the “brunch bill.”
“It’s more so a missed opportunity for Durham to represent itself as a leader in the Triangle, which I think it has now become,” he said.
Michael Martino, the general manager of the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center in Durham, said there was potentially some lost revenue from not passing the bill earlier, especially as the novelty of the “brunch bill” begins to wear off.
“The Durham social scene, especially on weekends, has exploded over the past few years,” Martino said. “I think there was potential lost revenue for those first few weekends, but I do think that there is enough of the summer season left to enjoy (for sales).”
Martino, who is the chairman of the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association, which helped lobby for the bill in the General Assembly, added that he understood why the City Council waited.
“I cannot honestly say I was frustrated, and I saw Durham was approaching this in due course,” he said. “I’ve always found when legislation is rushed and people don’t get to speak their piece on both sides, then it isn’t always fair.”