Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Rowan’s legislators have mixed opinions on a state Senate bill proposed earlier this month would allow ABC boards to decide whether or not it wants to open on Sunday.
Since the state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control system was created 70 years ago, its stores have been banned from opening on Sundays.
The bill was proposed earlier this month by N.C. Sen. Clark Jenkins, a Democrat from Edgecombe. He has said the bill would let local boards respond to requests for Sunday hours and raise more revenue for the state.
N.C. Sen. Andrew Brock, who has not voted on the bill, said he thinks the General Assembly has more important things to do than change that — like figure out how to balance the state’s budget.
“This is not something that has a lot of support down here at this moment,” Brock said. “It’s not like people are marching down the streets wanting to buy their booze on Sunday.”
Though he wouldn’t support lifting the ban, N.C. Rep. Fred Steen said he thinks it should be up to local boards to decide. Liquor by the drink already is served in restaurants on Sundays, he said.
“We’re seeing situations in coastal counties where folks are coming in from other states,” Steen said. “When they come to the beach, they want to go in on Sunday afternoon and stock up. They’re in a situation where they can’t do it in North Carolina, so they bring it across the border.”
He said he doesn’t know whether or not he would vote for this bill, and he has personal reservations about the increased availability of alcohol.
N.C. Rep. Harry Warren went a step further, saying he doesn’t like the idea at all.
“I don’t think the state should be selling alcohol to begin with, but doing it on Sunday is over top,” Warren said. “People can plan ahead and get what they want on Saturday.”
He said if ABC boards near the beach want exemptions from the blue law, their appointing governments could ask for a local bill, but he would not vote for a statewide change.
The Christian Action League of North Carolina is lobbying to fight the bill, which it calls a “bad idea” along with another bill proposed by Jenkins to allow liquor tastings at ABC stores.
“Already, nearly half a million North Carolinians have alcohol abuse problems without these laws that would increase access to spirituous liquor,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director, in a press release.
Linda Lowman, chair of the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board, said the board discussed the bill at its last meeting and decided it likes things the way they are.
“I don’t know if sales would end up less on Monday because people can get it on Sunday,” Lowman said. “I don’t know if it would bring any new revenue in.”
She said if the bill passes, it might as well be mandatory for ABC boards to open on Sundays, because those that didn’t would have a hard time competing.
Lowman added, “I’d imagine we’d probably lose sales if we chose not to.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.