ASHEBORO — Asheboro City Council members will take their time before making a decision about whether to approve alcohol sales two hours earlier on Sundays.
On Thursday night, during the regular January meeting of the council, Mayor David Smith directed the city attorney to prepare a resolution on earlier Sunday sales for council consideration at the council's regular meeting in March.
That will give council members time to talk to constituents, Smith said.
“It will give citizens time to lobby the council members on their wishes,” he added.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 155 — commonly called the “Brunch Bill” — into law in June. It allows municipalities to adopt ordinances to permit restaurants and businesses to begin selling alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon.
Aldermen in the city of Randleman were the first in Randolph County to take up the matter. They approved the change at their monthly meeting in December. It went into effect Dec. 10.
On Thursday night, Linda Brown, president of the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce, asked the council to enact an ordinance pursuant to the legislation. As of last month, Brown said, 128 other North Carolina towns and cities had adopted earlier Sunday sales.
She said that permitting alcohol sales just two hours earlier might seem “insignificant,” but that the move would level the playing field for city businesses, putting them in alignment with businesses in 128 other state municipalities in options to serve customers, resident and visitor alike.
“It's about creating opportunity for local business,” she said. “We don't see this per se as an alcohol issue. That was already decided about 10 years ago by local voters.”
On July 29, 2008, Asheboro voters overwhelmingly approved the on-premises and off-premises sale of malt beverages and unfortified wine, the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers, and the establishment of an ABC store.
The first beer was sold in an Asheboro restaurant — and the first six-pack of beer was sold in a city business — on Aug. 5, just one week after the election that ended 58 years of local alcohol prohibition.
The idea to delay a vote, Smith said, came after he talked with individual council members about the upcoming request on the council's January agenda.
There was no discussion Thursday among council members about any pros or cons of the Brunch Bill, although Clark Bell and Eddie Burks both had something to say.
Bell said that when the measure became state law, he thought it was something the Asheboro council would need to explore at some time.
Burks said, that in his view, Asheboro has “improved considerably” since voters approved the sale of alcohol — though neither the boom predicted by those who favored legal sales nor the gloom and doom predicted by those who opposed it had come to pass.
He said that he had been wrestling with the notion of adopting earlier Sunday sales. Burks said he is not certain whether any local restaurants had asked for the earlier hours. He also said he sees earlier sales as “yet another obstacle pushing people away from the church. Few can argue that Asheboro is not a church town.”
“Before we vote on this, I'll continue to be in prayer, as with any issue,” he said. “… I'm inclined to vote against adding the two hours.”
Burks said he wanted to hear from residents before the March 8 meeting and asked that they call him at 336-963-2217 or send an email to email@example.com. “Tell me why, why not, we need to do this,” he said.
Former Asheboro Mayor David Jarrell addressed the issue during the public comment period. His thoughts mirrored those of Burks.
“This is traditionally church time, and, as Eddie pointed out, this is a church community,” Jarrell said. “This is not a make or break for the retailers. So why, if it's not broke, why fix it? I see absolutely no reason to infringe on this time that we have traditionally honored as a day of worship.”