Some North Dakota lawmakers believe noon is too late for restaurants to start serving alcohol on Sundays, and are supporting a bipartisan "brunch bill" that would allow such sales to begin at 11 a.m. instead.
The House approved the measure 49-42 last month and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
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Grand Forks Democratic Rep. Marie Strinden, the bill's lead sponsor, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the legislation "stems from frustration" from North Dakota restaurants.
The state's restrictions put cities bordering other states at a disadvantage because those states allow for earlier booze sales on Sundays, she said, an effect she said was especially pronounced in her home district.
"There is an inequity between Grand Forks businesses and businesses a couple of blocks away in East Grand Forks (Minnesota)," she said. "This means that people leaving church, who want to go straight to brunch and maybe enjoy a mimosa or a beer with family, will often go to Minnesota restaurants rather than wait an hour to go to a Grand Forks restaurant."
Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants begin at 10 a.m. in Minnesota; 8 a.m. in Montana; and 7 a.m. in South Dakota.
Allowing North Dakota restaurants to begin serving alcohol an hour earlier "would not cut into Sunday family time," Strinden told the committee, which took no action.
The measure's fiscal note estimates the change could raise $143,000 over the next two-year budget cycle.
The legislation does not allow for off-sale liquor sales, meaning at convenience stores or supermarkets. It also does not require restaurants to serve alcohol earlier.
"Counties may also further restrict serving times, meaning that they could continue to allow a noon serving time if they choose," Strinden said.
Rudie Martinson, director of the North Dakota Hospitality Association, testified in support of the measure Tuesday. Martinson said his trade group that represents bars and restaurants also would support further relaxation of all liquor sales on Sunday.
Legislation failed during the 2013 session that would allow alcohol sales on Sundays to begin at 10 a.m. instead of noon.
North Dakota's Sunday business restrictions are part of the state's so-called blue laws. North Dakota law once required most businesses to stay closed on Sundays. It was changed in 1985 to allow grocery stores to open.
The Legislature in 1991 allowed most businesses to open on Sundays, but they couldn't open their doors before noon.