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Asheville Approves Sunday Morning Alcohol Sales

Jeremy Loeb/BPR
Over Easy Cafe in downtown Asheville

Updated Tuesday 7/25 7:23pm:  The Asheville City Council approved Sunday alcohol sales unanimously, meaning restaurants and bars can start serving drinks at 10am rather than the previous noon start time.  The original story is below.

The next time you go out for Sunday brunch in Asheville, you might be able to order a drink before noon.  BPR’s Jeremy Loeb reports the Asheville City Council is set to take up the issue during its next meeting Tuesday night.

Until recently, North Carolina had a statewide ban on alcohol sales before noon on Sundays.  That changed when Governor Roy Cooper signed the so-called brunch bill passed by the legislature.  The bill loosened a number of restrictions on beer makers and sellers, including the Sunday morning ban, allowing sales to begin two hours earlier at 10.  But for businesses to start selling, their city or county first had to approve it separately.  Hendersonville was among the first to do so.  They were joined shortly after by other mountain communities like Laurel Park and Mills River, the home of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.  Now Asheville could be next.     

“It could raise our sales $500 just for the day of Sunday by having those couple extra hours of alcohol.”

That’s Carson Lucci, owner of Over Easy Café, a popular brunch restaurant in downtown Asheville. 

“Saturdays, Sundays are our busiest days and Sundays, our sales are always a little bit less than they are on Saturdays and that’s drastically affected by the alcohol.”

And indeed this past Sunday was a busy one as usual at Over Easy.  And as usual, customers were ordering drinks, says server Lia Van Note

“They usually do.  I’ve also noticed that due to the weather, it’s a little hot outside and I think people would love to have a cocktail while they’re sitting outside, just to get the day started, take some of the edge off.”

But this was 11am, which meant sorry but no.  Rob, sitting with his buddy John, both visiting from New York, found out the hard way.

“I’m on vacation right now, so it would have been really nice to come here and have a nice cocktail.  They have great cocktails here, so it was upsetting.  I’ll get over it, but it just feels a little bit like an encroachment.”

“His face visibly fell.  I was sitting right here and I saw it.  And his mouth just kind of dropped and he said ‘Are you serious?’”

Loosening of the drinking laws is opposed by some Christian conservatives but most locals and even lawmakers had fun with the idea, even starting the #FreeTheMimosa hashtag to push the bill.  It's a pretty popular idea in Asheville, which is heavily reliant on the service industry and certainly at Over Easy where servers like Caitlyn O’Neil hate to disappoint guys like Rob. 

“We get a lot of tourists and they don’t know that we have that law.  So a lot of them are pretty upset most of the time.  We just have to kind of be like ‘We’re old school, we’re in the Bible belt.’”

Staples like mimosas and bloody mary’s do well at Over Easy.  And those bigger checks would lead to bigger tips also.

“Exactly, to my income, yes.”

So Caitlyn is definitely feeling it, and hoping the city council comes through.  Maybe she’ll be serving those mimosas as soon as Sunday.

“It’s gonna be awesome!  I’m excited.  It makes people happy, too.  It’s a part of the brunch experience, you know?”

Rob knows.  He waited patiently til the clock turned 12.

“I’m back again and about 25 minutes later I got my cocktail, and I’m about to take the first sip.  It’s pretty good.  It’s pretty tasty.  I’m definitely feeling revitalized.  It’s getting the gears grinding again.”

Getting the gears grinding again.   

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