Sunday mornings can now be a bit more festive — or relaxing — for Tuscaloosa diners.

New Sunday alcohol hours are now in effect for restaurants, bars and bistros with alcohol licenses.

They will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays and lasting through 10:30 p.m. as long as the drink is consumed by 11 p.m.

The previous permissible hours were noon to 9 p.m. with drinks finished by 9:30 p.m., and this noon-to-9 p.m. window remains in effect for stores that sell packaged alcohol, like convenience and grocery stores.

Bill Lloyd, owner of 301 Bistro, Bar & Beer Garden on Greensboro Avenue and a board member of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the change was a welcome one for hospitality business owners.

“It’s certainly going to help, particularly when you have visitors coming in and checking out of hotels early, they’d much rather have a brunch and have a mimosa here in town rather than going to Birmingham,” he said. “And I think it’s just good for the community in general, as it gives you more flexibility and shows we’re a more progressive city.”

These changes that were approved last week by the City Council and effectively start this Sunday are only for those businesses with on-premises liquor licenses, like restaurants and taverns.

Sunday alcohol sales began in Tuscaloosa in 2011 after the Alabama Legislature agreed to allow the City Council to call for a referendum on the issue.

Residents overwhelmingly voted in approval — 8,873 in favor of Sunday sales to 2,504 against — to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays from noon to 9:30 p.m.

But recently, there has been pressure on the City Council to amend these hours, which it is legally allowed to do now that the Alabama Legislature gave wet counties and municipalities the authority to amend and set their own hours of Sunday alcohol sales.

House Bill 168, which ultimately gave city and county leaders the authority to amend their Sunday alcohol hours, already had been introduced when the Tuscaloosa City Council voted to ask the Legislature for the autonomy to make these changes without requiring a referendum.

“It’s reasonable for us to have that power” said then-District 4 Councilman Matt Calderone, who represented portions of downtown and the areas around the University of Alabama, in April.

Instead of granting this authority just to the city of Tuscaloosa, HB 168 extended these rights to all counties and municipalities that already had voted to approve the sale of alcoholic beverages within their jurisdictions, and it made the referendum aspect of the changes an option instead of a requirement.

The council discussed the Sunday alcohol hour changes during the Aug. 20 meeting of its administration and policy committee.

No one opposed the change outright, but the 9 p.m. ending of alcoholic beverage sales and 9:30 p.m. cut-off for consumption was not set to change in the initial draft of the amendment.

Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry, though, recommended these hours be pushed to 11 p.m. in order to make Sunday night events at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater more attractive to performers.

Lee Busby, a candidate for the vacant District 4 seat on the City Council, asked that the committee hold off on taking action until October’s special election to fill that vacant seat, noting that a several bars and restaurants that stand to be affected by the change operate within District 4.

The committee, however, proceeded anyway and voted unanimously to recommend the changes to the full City Council.

On Aug. 27, the six-member council voted unanimously to adopt the amended hours.

 

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.