Sorry, Durham, but you'll have to wait a little longer to imbibe at brunch on Sunday mornings.
Durham restaurants and residents had been calling on the Durham City Council to pass an ordinance allowing alcohol sales to start at ten a.m. on Sundays, but at its Thursday work session, the council declined to suspend its normal rules of procedure and vote on the measure. Instead, the council will wait until its August 7 regular meeting.
Among other provisions, Senate Bill 155 (aka the brunch bill) allowed Sunday morning alcohol sales but said local governments would have to pass ordinances to opt in. Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Raleigh have already passed ordinances extending brunch time, but the Durham City Council’s summer break has kept the city’s Sunday-morning brunch scene dry.
Mike Martino, general manager of the Sheraton Imperial Hotel, thanked the council for considering the ordinance, saying it would be a huge boost for both the public and the private sectors due to increased sales and tax revenue.
"With over fifty-five million visitors to our state every year, with many visiting and experiencing the city of Durham, we believe moving service time back by just two hours could be a great boost for the tourism and hospitality industries." Martino said.
A letter sent to the council ahead of the session by Shelly Green, president and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a survey taken among restaurants saw overwhelming support for the ordinance, with 79 percent of respondents indicating the issue required quick action.
Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden asked if there were statistics indicating that Durham businesses had lost money to other towns due to their late adoption. Martino said there wasn’t, but statistics showed that restaurants in areas allowing for earlier alcohol sales saw an increase in sales.
Council member Jillian Johnson asked whether council would be willing to suspend the rules to vote on the item during the work session, but no vote was taken. Council member Charlie Reece said he would prefer to follow the normal legislative process to allow for a range of public input, absent strong evidence that Durham is losing business.
"Unless I'm faced with some compelling reason—for example, statistics from Durham businesses saying that they have lost business as a result of other jurisdictions nearby having passed this provision and the city of Durham having not," Reece said.