Following a unanimous vote on Monday, Carrboro residents will be among the first in the state to raise a toast at brunch on Sunday morning.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday signed into law Senate Bill 155, which allows alcohol to be sold in restaurants and stores before noon on Sundays if local governments approve.
The Board of Aldermen wasted no time, calling a special meeting at the first opportunity to authorize the so-called “Brunch Bill.” The meeting was announced just after Cooper signed the bill, so quickly that two aldermen were out of town and Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton had to stand in as acting town manager.
Still, Mayor Pro Tem Damon Seils said, with the board on recess for the summer, members didn’t want to wait until regular meetings resumed in September to change town laws.
”It didn’t make sense for us to deny our restaurant owners the opportunity to realize what I think will be a real benefit over the summer,” Seils said, adding that he’s heard from several restaurant owners enthusiastic to take advantage of the new law.
Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich, who also works in the food industry, told the board how rolling back the start time for alcohol sales could help restaurant workers as well as owners.
“What ten o’clock means is that you can do two brunch sittings as opposed to one, so it’s an economic driver,” Rich said. “It allows people coming to work on Sunday to get twice as much tips.”
Carrboro’s town ordinance now permits the sale of malt beverages, wine, fortified wine and mixed drinks starting at 10 a.m. Sundays, the earliest time allowed under the new state law. Mayor Lydia Lavelle noted that with the change, North Carolina becomes one of 47 states that allow Sunday sales before noon.
Though no one spoke against the brunch bill at the special meeting, Alderwoman Bethany Chaney read into the public record the text of a tweet she received critical of the new rules.
A Twitter user identified as Krystyn Podhayski tweeted to Chaney and Seils: “Awesome, because that’s what this town needs, more drunks, more earlier. How about helping people instead of drugging them?”
Chaney urged supporters of the Brunch Bill to be respectful in their celebrations and remember that some don’t see it as a positive change.
“It struck me that this is a reminder that not everybody is as appreciative of the opportunity to start brunch a little earlier, and there are plenty of people out there that have been hurt by alcohol either directly or indirectly,” Chaney said.
Local governments must decide to opt in to the new law. Hillsborough will consider it at a public hearing on July 20. Chapel Hill may wait until regular meetings resume in September.
Rich said Orange County officials are looking to see what businesses, if any, might be affected in the unincorporated areas of the county before deciding if a special meeting is warranted before the fall.
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