Is North Carolina Poised to Create New Jobs and Revenue by Modifying Blue Laws?


By: Paul H. Derrick

Many businesses in North Carolina’s hospitality industry are one step closer to achieving a long-sought goal. The state senate has approved a measure, the so-called “brunch bill,” that would allow cities and counties to decide whether local restaurants and bars can serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. By statute, North Carolina allows on-premises alcohol sales statewide from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. every day except Sunday, when such sales cannot begin until noon.

For well over a century, North Carolinians have been subject to a variety of statutes, regulations, and ordinances known collectively as “blue laws.” As a federal judge once explained, the blue laws were intended to “provide a day of rest and to prevent physical and moral debasement from uninterrupted labor.” Over time, most blue laws went the way of the dinosaurs, including one Asheville ordinance that prohibited ordering ice cream on Sunday without first ordering (and, presumably, eating) a lunch that was something other than cake. Today, most remaining blue laws govern alcohol sales.

Restaurants and hotels have long sought to persuade the legislature that relaxation of blue laws will not only increase taxable revenues, but also lead to additional tourism that paves the way for more jobs and, hopefully, have a spillover effect in the retail sector, where sports fans seeking pre-game beer and wine would likely purchase other items, as well. Although 47 other states already allow some form of alcohol sales before noon, those arguments largely have fallen on deaf ears. Until now.

The brunch bill also includes provisions designed to ease the rules for North Carolina’s burgeoning craft distillery industry. Already home to dozens of craft beer breweries, North Carolina has 45 distilleries currently operating, with almost two dozen more in the works.

The brunch bill now moves to the House for further consideration.

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area as they occur. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Paul Derrick at