Bars, Budget Link Is Strong
If some speculation about why a group of West Virginia state senators acted as they did Wednesday is true, shame on them. Someone ought to remind them there are things more important than making it easier for them to balance the state budget.
A bill approved by the House of Delegates, popularly known as the “Sunday Brunch Act,” is pending in the Senate. If enacted, it would allow bars and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages as early as 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. The current limit is 1 p.m.
Lobbyists for the travel and tourism industries are seeking the change. They have said some visitors to West Virginia are surprised to discover they cannot buy alcoholic drinks at restaurants’ Sunday brunches in the state.
Whether visitors staying in the Mountain State will refuse to come here again or warn their friends and business associates away because they can’t have a Bloody Mary on Sunday morning is debatable. Still, House of Delegates members agreed to make the change. But one delegate, John Overington, R-Berkeley, asked for and got an amendment to the bill. It would require bars and clubs to stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., rather than the current 3 a.m. “last call.”
Overington pointed out that in his area, law enforcement agencies have to cope with people from Pennsylvania and Maryland coming to West Virginia bars after their establishments shut down at 2 a.m. We have heard a few similar concerns here, though the fact some Ohio bars can serve alcohol until 2:30 a.m. makes the problem less serious.
Some bar owners and managers are not upset about moving “last call” back to 2 a.m. A few have been quoted as saying the number of customers between that time and 3 a.m. isn’t really worth the aggravation.
Plus, of course, there is the common-sense factor that people drinking at that time of night are more likely to be driving home while intoxicated.
Members of the state Senate Government Organization Committee removed the Overington amendment on Wednesday. If the “Sunday Brunch Act” passes, it will leave the 3 a.m. alcohol service limit in place.
Why? According to The Associated Press, critics of the 2 a.m. limit “noted the change could cost the state about $9 million a year in lost revenue” from video gambling machines in bars.
A variety of public safety considerations should go into a decision on the issue.