It’s a Bloody Mary morning at the Legislature

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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