This column originally appeared in the September 17, 2015 edition of the Herald Weekly. I decided to re-post this piece after the FB dialogue this weekend with Sen. Jeff Tarte and others and after reading the recent opinion piece in the Observer by Yaël Ossowski. Mr. Ossowski touches on a number of alcohol related laws in need of revising, including Sunday alcohol sales. But he also references the popular “Craft Freedom” movement attempting to revise the current distribution scheme for brewers in the state. I’m glad state legislators (and even the Observer editorial staff) are finally coming around to changing this decades old rigged system, but you have to ask what took so long (or you can just be a cynic and assume campaign contributions from a certain special interest group kept the rigged system in place for so long…). Apparently brewers just needed a catchy social media campaign to get the attention of legislators since basic arguments against protectionism failed to be persuasive.
Hopefully my #SundayEquality campaign will eventually have the same success in the legislature as the Craft Freedom campaign seems to be having.
Huntersville residents and all North Carolinians of legal drinking age should be allowed the choice to purchase alcohol anywhere it is sold before noon on Sunday. (For the purpose of this column, I’m referring to beer and wine only.)
The current reason this choice is not allowed is due to N.C. General Statute 18B-1004(c) which states, “It shall be unlawful to sell or consume alcoholic beverages on any licensed premises from the time at which sale or consumption must cease on Sunday morning until 12:00 Noon on that day.”
This is an antiquated law that needs to be repealed.
Why restrict alcohol purchases before noon on Sundays only instead of enacting the same time restriction every day of the week?
Why only ban the sale or consumption of alcohol before noon, but not the wholesale delivery of alcohol before noon as outlined in the exception granted to wholesalers in 18B-1004(e)?
These would be questions a reasonable person would ask if they had never heard of “blue laws” or our state’s limit on Sunday alcohol sales. I emailed every legislator in the General Assembly and the Governor and requested any rational reason for continuing to enforce N.C.G.S. 18B-1004(c); I received very few responses.
Sen. Jeff Tarte’s response was representative of the few responses I did receive – why change the status quo?
“I have no problem with the current situation because the vast majority of citizens have expressed no issue with the current law,” he wrote. “Nothing more and nothing less.”
Understood, but I would argue the lack of citizens explicitly requesting the law be changed is not evidence of their continued support of the status quo.
It’s not my intent to delve into the implied religious basis of this and other so-called “blue laws” here, but maybe a reader can point to the place in the Bible where it prohibits the sale of alcohol before noon Eastern Standard Time on Sunday? And what about Friday and Saturday? These days are considered to be Sabbath or significant by two of the largest religious groups in the world.
If the General Assembly won’t extend the statewide ban on the sale of alcohol before noon on Sunday for the entire week, surely they should respect the traditions of two of the largest religious groups in the world and also ban the sale of alcohol before noon on Friday and Saturday, right?
I recently spoke with representatives of the growing craft-beer scene in Huntersville and Cornelius for their opinions on this issue. Ray Steimel, co-owner of Primal Brewery, said the law doesn’t affect his business much because most of his customers don’t arrive until around 2 p.m. on Sundays.
But he did express frustration with the law as a consumer, as did Matt Glidden, owner of Ass Clown Brewery in Cornelius, citing Sundays on Lake Norman as an example. Glidden said he would love to at least have the option to open and sell alcohol before noon on Sundays for special events, but since this option isn’t available, he stated the law is, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Primal is currently open on Sundays, while Ass Clown is not. Glidden doesn’t think craft beer businesses would be greatly affected by a change in the law, but he does feel the coming craft distillery boom is going to be greatly hampered by both the noon prohibition and also the current monopoly on spirituous liquor sales in N.C. enforced by the ABC Commission.
The Sunday alcohol sales time was last changed more than 20 years ago. It’s past time for another change. I welcome readers to provide their own rational reasons for maintaining the status quo if they disagree.