Two States Fight for Early Sunday Sales

Sunday brunch business could get a whole lot busier — and more profitable — in Massachusetts if a bill in the state legislature becomes law. Massachusetts lawmakers are proposing Sunday alcohol sales begin at 10 a.m., which could be a boon to on-premise businesses. Additionally, Arizona legislators approved a change to the Sunday sale time from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. in that state, but Gov. Jan Brewer killed the proposed legislation.

In Massachusetts, current law prohibits alcohol from being served before noon on Sundays; every other day of the week alcohol can be sold beginning at 8 a.m. Arizona law prohibits Sunday alcohol sales before 10 a.m., but retailers and bars/restaurants can start selling alcohol at 6 a.m. every other day.

Proponents of both bills say the earlier sale time could boost Sunday brunch sales, as many people seeking typical brunch cocktails like Bloody Marys or Mimosas cannot get them until later in the day.

David Alphonse, vice president of beverage for Boston-based multi-concept operator Back Bay Restaurant Group, says all 34 of the group’s venues serve Sunday brunch, and an earlier alcohol sale time would be a welcome change, especially because he’s seen how good business can be at Back Bay venues’ Saturday morning brunches.  “Guests — especially tourists — are always wondering why they can’t have a Bloody Mary with their meal before noon and what the ‘big deal’ is [about] ordering a drink before noon.”

Arizona’s law permits alcohol service earlier than Massachusetts, but lawmakers in that state wanted to bring all alcohol sale times in line with the 6 a.m. starting point. Mac Gregory, director of food and beverage at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, says the resort services anywhere from 300 to 1,800 covers every week for its Sunday Champagne Brunch, depending on the time of the year. The proposed law would have allowed for an earlier opening to increase sales, Gregory explains, especially on holidays, when people are looking for earlier brunch service. “Our most common request is for the 10 a.m. time slot or earlier,” he says. “Hundreds of holiday guests each year can’t wait for brunch to open at 10 a.m. so they can get a Bloody Mary from our Bloody Mary bar or a Mimosa or Bellini to start their day.”

Gregory believes this legislation would have been beneficial to Arizona’s large resort business by providing guests with optimal hospitality service. “While staying at a resort, most guests are at leisure and appreciate being able to have whatever they want whenever they want it.”

But because the resort cannot serve alcohol before 10 a.m., early morning brunch service simply does not exist. “Beverages are an integral part of our brunch experience, and with new hours [from] the legislation we would [have been] able to open our doors earlier and with good demand. Most resorts dictate their brunch hours based on the law not allowing consumption of alcohol prior to 10 a.m.,” he explains.

Additionally, Gregory says it would have boosted alcohol sales at other resort outlets, including poolside service, golf outlets, spas and the tennis complex.

The provision to change the liquor sale time had been added into another provision regarding the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control; Gov. Brewer said the language must be removed and then brought up again separately. “If the policy is worthwhile, it will likely survive on its own merit,” she said, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Other states, such as Connecticut (11 a.m.) and Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee (noon), among others, also have restrictions on Sunday sales.

Stay tuned to NCB First Round for more coverage.


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