The Mobile City Council popped the cork Tuesday morning on early alcohol sales on Sunday in an effort to make the city more competitive with surrounding areas.
The new ordinance, which allows Sunday sales of alcohol at 10 a.m., comes in response to a recently passed law in the state Legislature allowing Mobile County and its municipalities to pass such laws. The law follows a similar law passed last year known colloquially as the “brunch bill” that excluded Mobile County.
“This is a positive move,” council Vice President Levon Manzie said of the move, which goes into effect immediately. “I’m happy it’s here. I support it, even though I won’t have an opportunity to enjoy it because I’ll be in church.”
Manzie, who serves as pastor of St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church, then made a slight crack at the expense of brunch spots citywide. “If you leave wherever you are and come to church you’ll probably have a better service.”
Mobile County was excluded from last year’s bill because in the mid-1990s voters in the area approved noon alcohol sales on Sunday — part of a peeling back of a restrictive statewide law, according to Downtown Mobile Alliance spokeswoman Carol Hunter.
At the time it put Mobile ahead of the state, but put us behind last year,” she said. “[The Legislature] did not want to create a different start time there but voters, by referendum, had approved a later start time.”
Members of the Downtown Mobile Alliance attended a pre-conference meeting Tuesday holding signs that read “free the bubbles,” an allusion to the champagne used to make the brunch staple mimosa.
Councilman John Williams acknowledged the sponsor of the bill, State Rep. James Buskey [D-Mobile] for his work to pass it and others impacting the city.
“We will sorely miss Mr. James Buskey,” Williams said of the District 99 representative, who is retiring this year after more than 40 years in the Legislature. “If we needed him, he was always there. This is another example of him seeing the economic benefit to downtown.”
Manzie added that the bill would level the playing field for Mobile’s downtown as it catches up on a statewide law.
Despite the previous law, some restaurants downtown had already begun serving alcohol before noon to go along with their brunch menus. While Hunter acknowledged the particularly light enforcement, she said many restaurants didn’t risk it, facing stiff fines and penalties from the notoriously strict Alabama ABC Board.
“Enforcement has always been problem-driven,” Hunter said. “Our local law enforcement agencies … have used a pretty light hand … but there were some restaurants that were never going to take that risk.”
The ability for all restaurants downtown to serve bloody marys and mimosas will make a huge difference, Hunter said.
“There is a wonderful brunch atmosphere,” Hunter said. “It is the greatest brunch scene. The revenue will help.”
Gov. Kay Ivey did not sign this bill, but it passed anyway since her move wasn’t considered a pocket veto because of the amount of time left in the session.
Ivey did recently sign a bill into law that would allow the city to regulate junk cars on private property.
“I’m proud to have sponsored and fought for this legislation which provides the city an important new tool in our continuing fight against blight,” State Rep. Adline Clarke [D-Mobile], the bill’s sponsor, said. “Working together, we can keep the progress going.”
The city introduced an ordinance to aid in the removal of junk cars last year, but it did not pass, city attorney Ricardo Woods said. The city would work to bring a new ordinance to the City Council soon, he said.