Lawmaking can take unpredictable turns; like a kite in the wind, a bill can dive or rise unexpectedly.

It happened again this week under the Capitol dome when the House of Delegates rather unexpectedly passed a bill that rolls back the time at which bars have to stop selling alcohol from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The original intent of HB 4454 was to allow restaurants to begin serving alcohol earlier on Sunday. The “Bloody Mary Brunch Bill” or the “Mimosa Bill” (depending on your drink of choice) permits cocktails starting at 10:30 a.m. instead of the current 1 p.m.

The travel and tourism industry likes the earlier start because it’s an additional amenity, particularly for overnight guests, in their highly competitive industry.  But once the bill was on the floor, there was an opportunity for Delegate John Overington (R-Berkeley) to amend in the earlier closing time.

Overington worries that drinkers in surrounding states where bars closer earlier, drive to West Virginia to continue their party and pose a highway hazard.

The House leadership raised no opposition to the minority amendment and the bill has now advanced to the Senate, where there will be an effort to protect the 3 a.m. “last call.”

John Cavacini, president of the state Racing Association and board member of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, is already working Senators.

“We will make an effort to, at least, restore the existing closing times that are allowed by the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration,” Cavacini told me Wednesday on “Metronews Talkline.”

When Overington heard of Cavacini’s opposition, he proposed a compromise that would allow certain tourist destinations, like the casinos, to keep the 3 a.m. closing, but still require other bars to close at two.

But that only further complicates the issue.

West Virginia has made a conscious decision—whether wise or not—to bank heavily on the gambling business.  Now, increased competition from surrounding states is putting stress on these casinos to generate the kind of revenue the state has grown used to.

Meanwhile, the state continues building its reputation as a tourist destination to outdoor enthusiasts, budget-conscious travelers and even a few high rollers who head to the Greenbrier.

One key to success in the service sector is to provide paying customers what they want, and charging them good money for it.

Drinking at 3 a.m. at the blackjack table or having a Bloody Mary with your eggs on Sunday morning doesn’t fit the lifestyle of most West Virginians.  We’re not in the demo, but some of our visitors are.

Leave last call at 3 a.m. and let restaurants serve up a cocktail at brunch on Sunday.

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Comments

  • Shadow

    In addition, Hunting should be allowed on Sunday if we want out-of-state tourists. That is another stupid "blue law" that should be repealed.

    • Cletus

      I asked Jesus and he said it was alright to hunt on Sunday before chruch. Thats why the almighty put animals on the earth, so we could blast em and eat em. Praise The Lord and pass the ammo. And the Catholics are drinkin every Sunday before 1pm....how's that fair.

      • Shadow

        Ahh, a vegetarian.

  • Kelly

    Greg and MtMan....absolutely agree in your views of the enormous potential of WV tourism. If out is done right, it could generate billions on revenues annually.

    I know nothing about the hospitality or tourism industry, but I do know Joe Manchin's son should not play any prominent role in its strategy or execution

  • CaptainQ

    Well Hoppy, this bill isn't THE stupidest thing our beloved WV legislature has ever dealt with. I seem to recall last year when our elected leaders in Charleston were debating about making the pepperoni roll the "Official Food" of West Virginia. That was as lame as the infamous 'Road Kill Bill' that passed over a decade ago and briefly made the Mountain State a laughing stalk in the entire country.

    This 'Last Call Bill' is stupid, but doesn't rank anywhere near the other dumb things ever discussed under the Capitol Dome.

  • GregG

    Why is it that every time something like this comes up the ole "travel and tourism industry" is mentioned? Now maybe it's just me, but I just don't feel that our state is what I would consider to be a tourist mecca. It isn't like this state is polluted with attractions such as theme parks, zoos, aquariums, race tracks, concert venues or museums. But.........to quote mntnman, that's just my opinion.

    • mntnman

      We are the outdoor mecca for the east coast. Whitewater, skiing, fishing, hunting, four-wheeling, state parks, rock climbing, mountain biking, natural beauty. Why do you think the Boy Scouts chose WV? We attract those who seek nature and its pursuits. (We also have the casinos and The Greenbrier, btw.)

      At the beginning, Myrtle Beach was just hotels and rinky-dink shops. It was schlock and the ocean. The same goes for the Smokey Mountains. Scholck and the mountains. I remember when they were easy to get to, had mostly local businesses and people were called by the ocean and sand or the mountains and bears. Look at them now. They are destinations, driven by investment in tourism.

      WV is now in its toddler stage of growing tourism. Will we ever be either Myrtle Beach or the Pigeon Forge? Doubt it because our tourism is spread throughout our state. But then, I don't want to be those locations. I want to be WV. Come here for what we offer.

      I live close to the Hatfield-McCoy trail. There is a trail-head within a 10 minute drive of where I grew up. There are so many people coming in to our area from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and the surrounding states that we do not have enough rooms to house them, restaurants to feed them and ATV shops to repair their vehicles. We are at the front end of a growing tourism economy. On a recent day, a local business counted over 100 vehicles pulling trailers heading toward the trail head. One day! That's money to be spent here. People to refer their friends. We offer something that other states don't have, but people want. We can be a destination.

      We can be a great tourist mecca with all we have to offer. We all need to sell our state. We aren't a theme park, aquarium, race track locale. That's not what we are. We are WV -- nature is our attraction!

      • Shadow

        Try to ride your ATV on Federal land!

      • Wirerowe

        Well stated mntnman. Great insight on the potential for additional tourism development in our state.

      • GregG

        I will agree with that which you have pointed out mntnman. But I also feel that we as a state could be a lot more if the powers that be would focus more on improving what we have and looking at other options. I would think that there are many other areas we could be looking at besides alcohol sales hours. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe allowing earlier alcohol sales on Sunday will be the golden goose. But in my opinion, if we want to be content with what we have, we should at least be trying to improve on those resources. I just feel that we are continually focused on the "quick buck" instead of a long term benefit of the state. Again, just my opinion.

      • The bookman

        +1

        I live in Randolph inside the MNF boundary. Things are growing here in spite of the current economic headwinds. All of our growth is tourism and hospitality based, driven by out of state, mostly eastern seaboard ecotourists. When our infrastructure finally catches up to the demand for our natural offerings, great things will happen. Almost all traffic on my sparsely populated road is out of state from Maine to Florida, but mostly Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. We have so much to offer, and gain, in this state. It is just so frustrating to see the mismanagement of the many opportunities available by our state government in their shortsighted vision.

  • Gobbly Gook

    Breaking news from the Capitol Dome.
    "Red solo cup, I fill you up
    Let's have a party, let's have a party
    I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
    Proceed to party, proceed to party."

    It's always a red solo cup night with WV legislators. Just go to the Carpet Rouge Lounge a block from the Capitol and see it for yourselves.

  • mntnman

    If we're going to be a tourist destination, then we have to act like one. Many tourist like to drink. Its part of their vacation. Most tourist destinations don't' have such limits. Why would we? While I get the reasoning by the Senator, his amendment does impact tourism, like it or not. We are NOT going to solve the drinking and driving problem by removing an hour from the opportunity to drink. It is naive to think so. But then, that's just my opinion.

    • Wirerowe

      Makes sense to me.

  • rick

    All blue laws including Sunday hunting need to be repealed. Let's get the Legislature and Congress to work on getting folks trained and back to work around this country. These side issues need to be put on the shelf.

  • Walsingham

    One of your best commentary titles yet.

  • Friend of Bill W.

    Pathetic this is even a topic.
    Anyone over the age of 24 that needs or even wants a "cocktail" at 1030 in the morning likely has a problem and should seek help.

    Common sense of anyone tells them if we didn't have a centralized location to drive our vehicles to and buy liquor by the single serving we wouldn't have as many road fatalities involving alcohol.

  • jay zoom

    this looks like its going to put drunks on the road at noon. just what this state needs. has senator beach got something to do with this. like you said hoppy leave it at 3 and if you serve cocktails or other legal beverages at breakfast you might as well start at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday and include I-hop - eat n park - and others even a beer or ripple with an egg mcmuffin sounds good to some.

  • zero tolerance

    Meanwhile in communities throughout the state we have infrastructure being destroyed by water trucks, fresh water supplies being compromised by Marcellus Shale drilling to include water wells that provide the singular source of water for a home, mounting budget shortfalls, the Freedom Tank Farm mess, many state employees working at or below the National Poverty Rate, skyrocketing meth lab discoveries, Mingo County corruption, etc, etc....

    AND WE WASTE TIME WITH GARBAGE LEGISLATION LIKE THIS!

    Cheers to the next interim Legislative Session!

    • Gobbly Gook

      Name one fresh water supply that has been compromised by Marcellus Shale drilling. Just one please.

  • TD

    I agree with your last line Hop, although my neighbor once gave me good advice about being out late. "If you're not in bed by 11:30 go on home, there's nothing out there but trouble after that", wise words indeed.

    I often golf with some friends on Sunday morning and many times we've cursed the law not allowing a beer or Bloody Mary purchase until 1 pm, our round is often ending by then and it's the only chance we have to get out and play.

  • The bookman

    Just another one of those strange, baffling laws that attempt to control the actions and lifestyle of individuals engaging in legal activity. I would support no time or day restrictions on the retail sale of alcohol in any form regardless of venue. I see this issue in the same light as the rx PSE bill. At what point will the government realize they have no standing to protect me from me?

    • David

      It's not the consumption of alcohol that's being limited, but the time after which it's unlawful to sell it. So, serving/selling alcohol past the statutory time wouldn't be a legal activity, would it?
      I agree that it's baffling and silly, though, and I especially object to the "Sunday is somehow special" laws.
      I'd argue, without any constitutional backup, that the government has standing to protect you from you, at least partially, because 'you' don't exist in a vacuum, apart from other members of society. Even after saying that, I struggle to define the limits. It's quite the sticky wicket...

      • The bookman

        The consumption of Beer, Wine and spirits is a legal activity in this state, but that activity is restricted to certain times on certain days. These restrictions are completely due to social mores and personal preferences and not based on safety. A person processes alcohol at the same rate without regard to time of day or day of the week. The only reason we have these restrictions is because someone feels that is how it should be. No basis in fact or scientific analysis.

        We have real problems in this state. This should not be one of them. No need to quibble over an hour here or 2 1/2 hours on Sunday at only your favorite restaurant.

        I agree where government has compelling evidence that my freedom to indulge in behavior that is not only destructive to me, but to society as a whole would have the right and duty to restrict my behavior. But explain to me how drinking adult beverages across four hours from 12-4 am is any more dangerous than from 12-4pm. I would actually posit that driving home from a bar during rush hour would be more dangerous than in the wee hours of the morning.

        All that having been said, I would rather people be able to live their lives without imposing their will on others, and this issue is simply that, an imposition without any justifiable reason whatsoever.

        Wow, glad I got through that without using the letters SCOTUS!

        • Shadow

          +1. I have yet to understand why some people have such a burning desire to control others. The strange thing about those type of people is that they generally have "a funny dirty secret" of their own.

  • tim b

    Why even have these antiquated blue laws anyway? A private establishment should be allowed to sell alcohol 24/7 if they choose to!

    • Shadow

      And beer on Sunday Morning.

  • Medman

    It is so good to see the Legislature working on the economic strategic plan to solve the long term issues in the State. Having a shooter on Sunday morning is the answer, right?

    • The bookman

      They act like school kids prioritizing their homework, leaving that science project to the night before the due date. Moving these low value bills leaving the heavy lifting to the bitter end so they can claim they wished they could've done better, but just ran out of time!

      • susanf1218

        Or have an excuse to call a "special session" to deal w/the issues they should have addressed during the regular session. Of course doing that wouldn't give them the excuse to reconvene and "earn" more pay for doing nothing!

        • The bookman

          We agree Susan! It truly is a great day!

          • zero tolerance

            +1