Wake leader blocks effort to allow alcohol sales before noon on Sunday at RDU Airport

People who want to buy alcohol before noon on Sunday at RDU International Airport or other parts of rural Wake County are out of luck, at least for the next few weeks.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted 6-1 in favor of allowing alcohol sales to start at 10 a.m. instead of noon on Sundays. But since one commissioner opposed the idea, the board will have to vote on the issue again at its next meeting for the new rule to take effect.

Commissioner James West of Raleigh voted against the measure, saying that supporting it would violate his conscience.

“I think we’re moving a little bit fast,” West said. “I simply don’t see the need, in terms of my values and my mission and the things that I stand for.”

State law requires county boards to take a second vote on issues that don’t receive unanimous support during a first reading. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 7, and the vote will not have to be unanimous to be approved.

The all-Democrat board hoped to join the growing number of municipalities and counties in North Carolina that are allowing earlier alcohol sales. Under a new state law, alcohol can be sold starting at 10 a.m. if local governing boards approve it.

Until Gov. Roy Cooper signed the “brunch bill” on June 30, North Carolina was one of only three states to prohibit Sunday morning alcohol sales.

Raleigh, Carrboro and Hendersonville were among the first to adopt the change during the first week of July, and nearly two dozen municipalities scheduled discussions to consider changing their rules before the end of the month.

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Wake Commissioner Erv Portman called Sunday alcohol sales “a liberty issue” giving residents “the freedom to do whatever they want to do, whether it’s orange juice or a mimosa.”

The board governs the 536 square miles of unincorporated land that’s not part of any city or town boundaries in Wake. Commissioner Matt Calabria said the change would allow stores in those areas to compete with others in towns that allow Sunday morning alcohol sales.

“This ordinance will give restaurateurs and business owners the freedom to meet the changing demands of their clients,” Calabria said. “It will spur more economic activity and add another amenity for those in our county who want it.”

Some Raleigh businesses saw revenue increases of 20 percent to 100 percent on July 9, the first Sunday they were able to sell alcohol before noon. Managers and owners of Raleigh restaurants that opened for brunch said the change made a significant impact on their bottom line.

The Midtown Grille at North Hills made twice as much money as it did on the Sunday after the Fourth of July in 2016, according to general manager Shannon Dye.

“We had a lot of phone calls, ‘Hey, are you serving at 10?’ ” Dye said, adding that the restaurant offered half-price Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. “People were just excited about the brunch bill in general.”

In downtown Raleigh, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey made $500 more in alcohol sales and Poole’s made $470 more on that first Sunday between 11 a.m. and noon, said Kaitlyn Goalen, brand director for Ashley Christensen Restaurants.

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Trophy Brewing saw a 20 percent increase in profits after opening its Maywood Avenue bar two hours early on July 9, said David Meeker, a co-owner.

Surf City and Wrightsville Beach approved Sunday morning sales last week, while New Bern rejected a motion to allow alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. Charlotte is scheduled to vote on new rules July 24.

In the Triangle, Chapel Hill approved Sunday morning sales during a July 10 meeting and Durham plans to discuss the issue at a work session on July 27.

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