HB 4454, commonly known as the Sunday Brunch Act, is a piece of pending legislation in the West Virginia Legislature that would allow restaurants, bars, and other establishments to serve liquor and alcohol as early as 10:30 a.m. on Sundays instead of the current time of 1 p.m. However, many are claiming that politicians and the tourism industry in West Virginia are more concerned with money rather than safety.
According to The Journal, travel and tourism lobbyists were seeking the time change because they claim many visitors to the state were often surprised and disappointed to discover certain laws prohibited them from buying alcohol at restaurants’ Sunday brunches. Whether this change will attract a significant increase of visitors is unlikely, but enacting this law is a sign that West Virginia is not only changing with the times but it is also putting forward a significant effort to improve the state’s tourism industry, more specifically their gambling and casino industry. It may very well attract more visitors to West Virginian establishments.
The Sunday Brunch Act was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates in February and is now pending in the senate. Although, according to West Virginia MetroNews, a delegate from our Eastern Panhandle region, John Overington (R-Berkeley), asked for and was initially granted an amendment that faced little opposition from within the legislature. It stated that bars and clubs must stop selling alcohol by 2 a.m. instead of the current last call for alcohol at 3 a.m. He claimed many law enforcement agencies in the state had to cope with people coming from nearby states, such as Maryland, after establishments there shutdown at 2 a.m.
Nonetheless, The Charleston Gazette reported on Feb. 25 that critics were arguing that changing the last call time from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. would cost the state about $9 million a year in lost revenue. As a result, legislators restored the original 3 a.m. last call in the Sunday Brunch Act.
As the bill awaits the Senate, critics continue to argue that this change would only benefit those who are heavy drinkers and it will put more drunk drivers on the road. This very well may be true; however, it is hard to believe that allowing individuals to buy alcohol at bars, restaurants and similar establishments two and a half hours earlier on Sunday mornings will result in a dramatic increase in drunk drivers or an epidemic of alcoholics. There is no substantiated evidence or study of which I am aware that indicates this slight change to the law threatens the public’s safety or that more alcohol-related deaths and incidents will occur.
It’s 2014 and with a growing liberal leaning population, it is certainly time for the state to drop outdated and conservative traditions prohibiting the sale of alcohol at certain establishments on Sundays until 1 p.m. Moreover, it is well known that the state of West Virginia is currently facing various budget problems and shortfalls, so any new source of revenue, despite how large or small it is, will benefit the treasury’s coffers.
This is just one of many steps being taken to improve the state’s tourism industry and to attract more visitors to the state. West Virginia has been attempting to improve and increase tourism within the state for the past several years. With a booming casino business and many natural wonders within it, visitors are coming to the state and tourism is becoming a significant aspect of the state’s economy. To continue to attract more visitors to the state, their needs must be met. This means being able to buy a beer or have a glass of wine on a Sunday visit to West Virginia.
Simply put, enacting this Sunday Brunch Act will not only mean residents and tourists can enjoy themselves a little earlier on Sundays, but businesses and the state will make more money. As a result, this will contribute to improving the state’s budget and, hopefully, the economy.