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W.Va. bill would allow establishments to serve alcohol earlier on Sundays

April 01, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Legislation that would allow Sunday sales of beer and wine to begin at 10 a.m. is on track to be voted on by the 100-member W.Va. House this week.
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Offering customers a glass of champagne with their Sunday brunch at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and at any other hospitality business in West Virginia might soon be a little less complicated.

Legislation that would allow Sunday sales of beer and wine to begin at 10 a.m. is on track to be voted on by the 100-member House this week.

Current state law now only allows such sales to begin after 1 p.m.

Patrons of the upscale Sunday brunch buffet at the Bavarian Inn find the current restriction “ridiculous,” said Christian Asam, who operates the alpine-style AAA Four Diamond property along the Potomac River with his brother, David.

Given the current restriction, the brunch buffet’s “adult beverage station,” featuring champagne, mimosas and Bloody Mary’s isn’t available until more than halfway through the three-hour buffet. 

Asam estimated the change proposed in House Bill 2946 by Del. Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, could generate an additional $40,000 to $60,000 for the family business, which their parents started more than 35 years ago.

Asam said wait staff would net more in tips from sales and the growth in business could lead to hiring additional employees.

Asam, who also serves as vice president of the Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the legislation is “very important” to Jefferson County’s tourism industry as a whole, especially given the economy.

The bill was amended by the House judiciary and finance committees, but Skinner said his initial proposal to allow restaurants and other hospitality businesses to begin serving alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. remains intact.

Through the committee process, Skinner said the bill also was amended to allow similar time changes for retail sales of alcoholic beverages on Sunday.

Asam said the change for retail sales would mean Sunday brunch patrons would not have to wait until after 1 p.m. to purchase a bottle of wine from the inn’s wine list before leaving to go home.

A judiciary committee amendment that would allow voters in each county to decide whether to move up the time bars and clubs must stop selling alcohol from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., was removed Friday by the Finance Committee, Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, confirmed Monday.

The amendment, which Skinner said he supported when it was being considered by the judiciary committee, was stripped out on a voice vote, said Cowles, the only Eastern Panhandle delegate on the finance committee.

Cowles said he expects delegates will try to amend the county option on alcohol sales back into the bill on the House floor, where it is set to be read for the second of three times Tuesday.

“It’s pretty important for the Eastern Panhandle to get that in,” Cowles said.

Cowles said other finance committee members successfully argued that allowing the county-by-county option on alcohol sales could cause complications because of the different bar closing times.

Cowles noted area lawmakers have tried for a number of a years to give counties flexibility to close bars and clubs earlier in response to alcohol-related incidents, particularly along U.S. 11 in Berkeley County.

A weekend “blitz” by the West Virginia State Police in February resulted in 67 arrests for driving under the influence statewide, but more than a third of the DUIs (24) were tallied in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. 
 

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