Restaurants can serve Sunday brunch drinks

Rule for all alcohol sales on Sunday may change

OKEECHOBEE — Good news for those who like to enjoy a mimosa cocktail or a Bloody Mary with Sunday brunch: At their Jan. 8 meeting, the Okeechobee County commissioners approved a change to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Before the change, restaurants could not sell alcoholic beverages before 1 p.m. on Sundays; some complained this was driving Sunday brunch customers to restaurants on the coast.

The new ordinance only applies to restaurants that have licenses for on-site consumption of alcohol. It does not apply to bars or package stores.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, two county commissioners voiced the opinion that the ordinance may not go far enough.

“I think if you’re going to do it, do it all,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. He said restricting alcohol sales at bars and package stores on Sunday is “keeping one foot back in the 1800s. I would just as soon make a clean sweep of it.”

Commissioner David Hazellief asked about clubs such as the VFW that sometimes serve meals.

County Attorney Wade Vose explained the ordinance applies only to establishments with restaurant licenses.

He said service clubs do not typically have a restaurant license.

“Let’s say Veterans Day falls on a Sunday and they want to do a brunch. What’s the difference?” asked Mr. Hazellief.

“They don’t have a restaurant license. From a legal standpoint, that’s the difference,” explained Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs.

Commissioner Goodbread noted a restaurant license requires that at least 51 percent of the business’s gross sales be from food.

“I think we’re getting into a slippery slope, picking and choosing,” said Commissioner Goodbread. “Personally, I think we ought to make it for all.”

The county attorney said the state alcoholic beverage licenses make a distinction between on-premises consumption and off-premises consumption. He said there is also a difference between the alcohol sales license held by restaurants open to the public and the license held by private clubs.

“I don’t think all of the things that have happened bringing us into the 21st century have been good,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper. He said the Sunday alcohol sales restrictions are a local tradition.

Commissioner Goodbread said if the county makes the exception for restaurants, they will have complaints from stores. He said fishermen going out on the lake on a Sunday morning might want to stop at a store to pick up some beer.

“You have people who are having a Super Bowl party and they want to stop and get it,” he said.

“A lot of people I talked to thought this was an interesting idea because they want to go out to OK Corral for brunch,” said Chairman Burroughs.

He said people who plan to serve alcoholic beverages for a special event on Sunday already know they need to purchase alcohol the day before.

“If people are having a Super Bowl party, they will stock up the day before,” he said.

“I am supportive of allowing it in the restaurant so that if they are having brunch and want to provide that opportunity, I don’t have a problem with that,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens. “At this point, I would want to restrict it to that.”

“In Okeechobee County, the way this works, you’ve really got a few instances this would apply to,” said Commissioner Burroughs, naming restaurants in the county that sell alcoholic beverages: Quail Creek, Brahma Bull, Lunkers, Pine Creek and OK Corral.

“If you expand it, out, you will have all of the local clubs and package stores have the opportunity to sell at 10 a.m.,” the Chairman Burroughs said. “I think in this particular issue, this hones it down to an area that is serving food where people will go and eat.”

He said community members have told him, “It’s about time we did something to come into the 21st century.

“I’m fine with the way it is written today,” he continued.

Commissioner Hazellief said he would like to have some more time to check with the public and see how they feel about extending the earlier alcohol sales hours to other businesses.

Chairman Burroughs said they could approve the change for restaurants only now and consider expanding hours for other business at a future meeting.

The change to Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages at restaurants passed with a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Culpepper, Owens and Burroughs voted in favor of the change. Commissioners Goodbread and Hazellief were opposed.

The commissioners also voted 3-2 to advertise an ordinance to change the start of Sunday alcohol sales hours for all businesses to 10 a.m. Commissioners Goodbread, Hazellief and Burroughs voted in favor. Commissioners Culpepper and Owens were opposed. That ordinance will be advertised for discussion at a future meeting.

The county ordinance will not apply to restaurants inside city limits; the City of Okeechobee has its own ordinance governing alcohol sales.

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