Decatur restaurants could soon offer a mimosa or a bloody mary for Sunday brunch or a beer before the first NFL game, a change in the tradition that once reserved Sunday mornings for church.
At least one local religious leader, Decatur Church of Christ evangelist Alan Watkins, believes it's a change in the wrong direction and a sign people have lost respect for religion.
A proposed ordinance changing the time alcohol sales can resume on Sunday from noon to 10 a.m. is scheduled to be introduced for a first reading at Monday’s City Council meeting. The change applies to both sales for on-premises consumption and off-premises consumption, such as package stores and grocery stores.
Carrying alcohol outside in the Arts and Entertainment District would still be prohibited until noon.
The Planning Commission recommended the change in October to match a state law passed in the 2018 state legislative session, said City Attorney Herman Marks. The law, which took effect Thursday, allows wet cities and counties to allow or expand Sunday sales through an ordinance or resolution, without the need for a local law passed by the Legislature.
Marks said the Planning Commission wanted Decatur to have the same options as other cities in the state.
Tyler Jones, owner of Whisk’D Cafe at Grant Street and Somerville Road Southeast, said he realizes most people are in church on Sunday morning but there are some who want a mimosa or a bloody mary for brunch. He said some are even willing to drive to Huntsville to get their brunch and drink.
“We’ve been asked over and over again for the drinks and, if people tell me they want something, I’m going to give it to them,” Jones said.
Watkins said he opposes Sunday morning alcohol sales and the other relaxations of alcohol laws but, he said, “It’s difficult to legislate morality.” He said money is a powerful force behind recent changes to the city’s alcohol ordinances.
Whisk’D is a breakfast restaurant that’s open Sundays from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., so the current ordinance allows him just one hour to serve alcoholic drinks, Jones said.
Local sports bars/restaurants like Sam's Sports Grill and Buffalo Wild Wings, both of which open at 11 a.m. Sundays, could also benefit. Sam's manager Jesse Nolan said his restaurant's customers could get that beer or drink they want a little earlier to prepare for the noon NFL kickoffs.
"Everybody knows we can't sell alcohol until noon but, occasionally, a newbie server has to be reminded," Nolan said.
Nolan said being able to sell alcohol earlier would be a great way to kick off what is usually a fun day. The restaurant offers the NFL Sunday Ticket to attract fans of multiple teams.
Jones said another benefit to the change is it could attract new restaurants to Decatur.
In the past two years, city leaders relaxed the setback rules, allowing some restaurants as close as 25 feet from a church or school to sell alcohol. The council also voted to allow downtown restaurants to make 70% of their incomes on alcohol sales and expanded the Arts and Entertainment District, an area generally in the downtown where people can carry alcoholic beverages outside restaurants during specified times.
Sunday alcohol sales became legal in Decatur in 2010. Sales would be prohibited between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sundays under the proposed ordinance change.
The City Council will also consider Monday approving an alcohol license for the Point Mallard Ice Complex after approving a rezoning in July that opened up the possibility.
“Some people say drinking alcohol moderately is OK, although I don’t agree with them,” Watkins said.
Watkins said the problem is people have lost respect for religion and the tradition that Sunday from 9 a.m. until noon was reserved for those worshiping God. He said he played baseball, and he never would have considered playing ball on Sundays or Wednesdays, but now the city’s ballfields are active every day.
“There’s no appreciation or respect for the spiritual mind,” Watkins said.
Watkins said this “decay of respect” for religion is not just an issue in Decatur or the state.
“This country was founded on Biblical principles, but we’re rapidly moving away from our faith in God, and that’s scary,” Watkins said.