DURHAM, N.C. Two months ago, the North Carolina state legislature voted to allow local distilleries to distribute and sell alcohol on Sundays, overturning a prohibition-era limit on spirits. Just in time for the holidays, distilleries are open on Sundays, welcoming customers for tastings, tours and sales.
“Sunday there was no point in being open unless you could sell a bottle. People would come in and want a tour and we’d say ‘great, have a cocktail, come back tomorrow and buy a bottle that’d be great.’ It was really frustrating for everyone involved,” Jonathan Blitz, owner of Mystic Farm and Distillery in Durham, told Spectrum News 1. “Opening up that second day of the week essentially can double your revenue at least we hope it will.”
Blitz, who had a long career in government and law, was called on to participate in some hearings and made his case to state lawmakers.
“It’s huge, it’s another day of business during the week when you’re in a business that mostly operates on weekends,” Blitz said. “If you think about when people want to do something fun in the afternoon they can do that at a local business that’s using local agricultural products and local labor so it’s been huge to have that extra day of business.”
He believes the change will ultimately highlight one of the best products North Carolina may be able to produce.
“We have better conditions here, we have a lot of talent in this state and we have an opportunity to build a world class industry,” Blitz said. “We’re not going to be a Napa Valley of wine, we just don’t have the climate here, but we do have the best conditions on earth to make great bourbon.”
Since lawmakers approved the rule to allow Sunday sales for distilleries, Blitz has been able to hire another full-time employee, and he believes it could also double his weekend revenue.
“It feels great and it also feels like we’re not missing half the weekend because there was always that feeling of frustration. We’re driven a lot by tourism,” he said. “A lot of our customers are here for the weekend they’re visiting so for them to be here for a few hours in the afternoon before they drive back to wherever they’re going. It’s also been a great thing for families to come out, the kids can play, dad might get a cocktail, mom might get a gift for someone, maybe do a tour, it’s a great afternoon for everyone.”
On a Sunday in December, dozens of people came in for tours and tastings.
“Sunday’s are a time where people are off work,” Blitz said. “They’re not coming in on a Tuesday and taking a tour unless they’re on vacation.”
Blitz also said that he believes that the alcohol beverage control system is also likely to hop on the bandwagon and offer Sunday sales in the coming years.
“It’s part of tourism, it’s part of consumer facing experience,” he continued. “It’s just common sense. life has changed so much since prohibition. Now, Sunday is a big time for families to get together for a shared activity and that could be something like this.”