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Bar bill battle builds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the state Senate will face pressure from those in the hospitality and tourism industry to remove a provision — pushing back last call at West Virginia’s bars and casinos from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. — from a bill originally proposed to allow alcohol sales during Sunday brunches.

“We will make an effort to, at least, restore the existing closing times that are allowed by the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration,” said John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association, of the bill the House of Delegates approved with a 70-26 vote this week.

If anything, Cavacini said he thinks alcohol sale hours should be expanded in West Virginia, not restricted.  “We need to be on a course that is in place today,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The original intent of HB 4454 had nothing to do with bar closing times.  It was written to allow for alcohol sales starting at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings so people who are going to brunch at a West Virginia restaurant, hotel or bed and breakfast can legally order an alcoholic drink.  Currently, those sales are prohibited, by law, until 1 p.m. on Sundays.

As part of a compromise in the House on the Sunday hours, Del. John Overington (R-Berkeley, 62) proposed the amendment that changed the nightly alcohol sale cut-off time.  Right now, alcohol sales stop at 3 a.m. in West Virginia which is later than cut-off times in a number of neighboring states.

Overington said an additional compromise may be to let destination sites, like hotels and casinos, serve alcohol later.

“These would not be the people that are coming from Maryland after they’ve had four or five drinks at a Maryland or Virginia or Ohio or Kentucky bar.  Those are the people that I was concerned about, getting them off the roads so they’re not attracted to West Virginia,” he said on Wednesday.

If the Senate approves the bill in its current form, alcohol sales at private clubs, including restaurants and casinos, would not be allowed between 2 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays.

In the Senate, the bill has first been referred to the Senate Government Organization Committee with just more than two weeks remaining in the 2014 Regular Legislative Session.





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