Tourism officials have no thirst for more alcohol on Sundays

By: By Mike Gellatly -

LUMBERTON — Some key players in Lumberton’s tourism industry are shrugging their shoulders at the new brunch law that allows restaurants to sell alcohol for two more hours on Sunday mornings.

Neither the Lumberton Visitors Bureau nor the Lumberton Chamber of Commerce is taking a stance on the new law that allows alcoholic beverages to be served between 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday if local municipalities agree. The state law has been that alcohol could not be served until noon, and that includes retail sales.

The bill was championed in Raleigh by tourism groups and already has been adopted by several municipalities throughout North Carolina. However, Robeson County tourism advocates aren’t ready to jump on the brunch-and-booze bandwagon.

“I really can’t speak for the board as we haven’t discussed it,” said Arnold West, chairman of the Lumberton Tourism Development Authority. “We try on the board to promote travel and tourism for the Lumberton area, and we want to do it by reasonable means, by what is beneficial, for what is good for the traveler and for the local community.”

As chairman, West doesn’t have a strong opinion on the law. As the owner of Arnold’s and the Village Station, which sit within a few yards of each other in Roberts Avenue near Interstate 95, West doesn’t see the law changing how he operates his restaurant.

“It won’t really affect me,” West said. “It’s not going to be a major impact in Lumberton.”

West opens his doors at 11 a.m. on Sundays, but doesn’t think an hour more of alcohol sales will make a big difference.

“I’m local – 80 percent of our customers are locals. It’s just not going to have an impact on Lumberton,” he said.

The Lumberton Chamber of Commerce seems equally indifferent to new brunch-and-booze law. Bo Biggs sits on the chamber’s board of directors and tracks legislative issues.

“I’ve had no calls from chamber members either for it or against it,” Biggs said. “We didn’t take a position on it.”

For 10 a.m. alcohol sales to come into being in Lumberton, the City Council would have to vote to allow it and there is little pointing in that direction.

Councilman John Cantey has spoken out against easing alcohol sale laws. Councilman Burnis Wilkins has spoken against the law easing restrictions on gas stations and convenience stores. In a statement on social media, Wilkins said he would not support an ordinance allowing such sales in Lumberton.

When reached on Monday, Mayor Bruce Davis and Councilman John Robinson declined to comment. Other council members could not be reached.

Opponents of the bill say that two more hours of alcohol sales on Sunday would have limited benefits but could cause some problems. Cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh quickly jumped at the opportunity, but the law is considered less inviting in rural and more socially conservative communities such as Lumberton.

The Robeson County Board of Commissioners is on record in opposition, but its position appears moot as the county remains dry.

Arnold West West

By Mike Gellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly