Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, the town of Highlands joined the growing list of North Carolina cities and towns that have passed a “brunch bill” ordinance, which allows for the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays.

The North Carolina legislature paved the way for alcohol to be served before noon on Sundays earlier this year when they passed the Senate Bill 155 or the “brunch bill.” House of Representatives member Kevin Corbin and Senator Jim Davis, both of whom represent Macon County in the state legislature voted in favor of the law.

Governor Roy Cooper signed the bill into law on June 30 which allows county and city governments to choose whether to adopt a new ordinance allowing restaurants and grocery stores to sell malt beverages, unfortified wine, fortified wine, or mixed beverages two hours earlier. The law also permits North Carolina distillers to sell five bottles per customer annually to patrons who take a distillery tour. The current annual limit is one bottle. Distilleries are also now able to hold tastings at festivals, trade shows, and conventions that allow alcohol tastings.

Senator Rick Gunn, a Republican from Alamance County was a primary sponsor for the bill and noted that 47 other states in the United States allow alcohol sales before noon on Sundays already, a change that has garnered an increase in support over the last five years. Southern states have been the last states to pass such legislation, with North Carolina becoming the most recent in June.

Highlands town board approved the change last month, which will allow their restaurants, many of which serve brunch to out of town guests on Sundays, to serve alcohol before noon.

“We are a resort town, and the 10 a.m. Sunday serving time was rather a routine change to our ordinance,” said Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor. “The state legislature passed the law permitting the change, so our board, like all the others in the region, voted to make the change.”

When the Highlands cCommissioners took up the issue, several members of the community attended the meeting in support of adopting the change locally. Richard Delany, president and managing director of Old Edwards Hospitality Group spoke in favor or the change citing a hospitality and service need for the change for the resorts guests.

More than just having a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with brunch on Sunday, retailers such as Mountain Fresh Grocery encouraged the change to let shoppers purchase beverages in stores on Sunday as well. Currently, grocery stores can’t sell alcoholic beverages before noon in towns such as Franklin. A change to the local ordinance would not only allow restaurants to serve alcohol, but retailers would also be permitted to sell it as well.

Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said for the town to consider a change, someone would first have to bring it to their attention. “At this time it has not been an issue and no one has approached me on it,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott. “It would require board action and I have no preference on it either way. If the board and the community want it then someone needs to bring it up.  Pro or con.”

Robbie Lang, manager of the Root+Barrel on Main Street, said changing the ordinance in Franklin would benefit his business.

“We frequently have customers asking for Mimosas and Bloody Marys before noon, we just want to make our guests happy and serve the public,” he said.

Since the legislature voted to allow local governments to decide for themselves, dozens of towns and cities around the state have begun discussing the issue. Neighboring towns such as Bryson City and Sylva are expected to take up the idea soon.

However, Macon County News asked readers their thoughts on allowing sales in Franklin before noon, and the majority of those who responded to the Facebook question, were against the change, despite it being status quo in the country.

The sale of alcohol on Sundays is considered a Blue Law which varies by state. Blue Laws are laws designed to enforce religious standards. In addition to restricted times to sell or serve alcohol on Sundays in North Carolina, hunting with a gun is also prohibited on Sundays between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., another common Blue Law.

While states have slowly started to change their Blue Laws surrounding alcohol sales, with 47 states now serving unrestricted on Sundays, other Blue Laws remain on the books. In Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, car dealerships continue to operate under a Blue Law prohibitions in which an automobile may not be purchased or traded on a Sunday.

The Franklin Town Council meets the first Monday of every month at town hall. The next meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. because of the Labor Day holiday. Anyone can approach the board at that time during public comment period for or against the issue, or contact town hall prior to the meeting to be placed on the agenda to discuss the issue.