It’s hard to believe, but Mobile’s teeming throngs of alcohol-dependent citizens will finally be able to get a drink before noon Sunday without having to go to communion.
The “brunch bill” was passed in the state Legislature recently and this week the Mobile City Council unanimously approved it, meaning it’s now totally legal to go to a restaurant and order a bloody mary, mimosa or José Cuervo before high noon. It may seem a bit ridiculous to get excited over the concept of just becoming a little less backward, but baby steps, man, baby steps.
Rep. James Buskey ushered the “brunch bill” through, putting a nice cap on an already impressive 40-year legislative career. As he readies to retire after this session ends, Buskey will be able to enjoy his handiwork with some eggs Benedict any Sunday he chooses. Someone be sure to buy the man a drink.
The bill passed the Legislature at the beginning of this month, but Gov. Kay Ivey — well known as a teetotaler, right? — refused to sign it but also didn’t veto, so it became the law after five days. One of the ironies here is that Mobile was excluded from a statewide law passed last year that would have allowed drinking at our breakfast/lunches because some members of the Legislature didn’t want to upend the local referendum passed in the mid-’90s that finally allowed the sale of alcohol on Sunday after noon. So we went from being ahead of the curve booze-wise to looking like backward yokels in one fell swoop. This helps correct that.
I’m sure to out-of-towners, or people who just moved here from practically anywhere else, the idea of applauding so loudly for what is just standard practice across most of the rest of the country must seem rather Podunk. But I’m old enough to remember just how far we’ve come.
When I matriculated to Spring Hill College eons ago, no alcohol was sold at all on Sundays, except at private clubs such as the fabulous Judge Roy Bean’s. And certainly nothing was sold before noon. In the ‘90s the aforementioned referendum allowing the sale of alcohol in stores after noon was passed here, which at least stopped the flow of people driving to Mississippi and Florida on the Lord’s day.
Now, at last, we are able to LEGALLY have a drink after 10 a.m. on Sunday at a bar or restaurant. I stress LEGALLY because a lot of you are probably saying, “Hey, dummy, I’ve been to plenty of Sunday brunches around here where they were serving champagne, bloodies and mimosas.” And you’re right. But they were doing so illegally and faced the wrath of the almighty ABC Board, should they decide to crack down.
Is this really that big a deal? As City Councilman Levon Manzie joked after he and his fellow councilors unanimously approved the law in Mobile, the people who are in church on Sunday mornings won’t be able to enjoy the law change anyway. It’s a good point, but you know sometimes things happen. The car won’t start. You already got churched up watching a televangelist. You didn’t have a clean church shirt. In situations like that, brunch may be a strong option for even the usual churchgoer. Or just hit the early mass then brunch. Yeah, that’s the ticket to both salvation and libation.
Maybe the bigger deal is we’ll no longer feel like idiots trying to explain to out-of-town guests why we’re going to brunch but they can’t get a bloody mary yet. Face it, one of the things Mobilians have always been able to brag about is the fact our bars stay open all night. People from bigger cities may cast aspersions, but they’re safely home by 2 a.m. while we’re still out raising hell and breaking things until daylight. But that bragging right gets thrown right out the window when Sunday morning rolls around and we can’t have a drink to take the edge off last night’s (or earlier that morning’s) burgeoning hangover.
We still have some way to go in order to finally throw off all the remnants of the “blue laws” that have governed Sunday life in the South for so many decades. This law, for instance, still won’t mean when you go to the grocery story and thoughtlessly stick a six-pack of beer in the cart while shopping Sunday morning you won’t be embarrassed when the checkout clerk denies you. The new 10 a.m.-to-noon drinking law is for on-premises consumption only. You’re still going to miss the Saints’ kickoff if you didn’t plan ahead.
Perhaps one other benefit of the new law is it will serve to encourage more brunches. Lord knows they’re popular around here, and some city officials seem to believe the previous situation kept a number of potential players on the sidelines because they didn’t want to break the law. Right now Mobile has a dearth of Sunday brunches. Yes, there are some really good places to go, but the waits are so ridiculously long you’d think people are waiting for a new kidney, not breakfast tacos. Surely a few more brunch spots could at least thin the crowds a bit.
So let the champagne flow this coming Sunday. Mobile has joined the rest of the civilized world. And that’s worth a toast with your French toast.