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New alcohol rule to boost brunch, starting Sunday

By Jack Nicas
Globe Correspondent / July 2, 2010

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A small change in the Commonwealth’s alcohol laws passed with little fanfare as part of the $27.6 billion budget could turn out to be a financial windfall for restaurants and the state of Massachusetts. Alcohol can now be served in restaurants as early at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

“Anytime I get more hours to sell booze, what better thing can you have?’’ said Steven Uliss, owner of the three Firefly’s restaurants around the state. “Let the festivities begin.’’

Previously, restaurants and bars were prohibited from selling alcohol before noon.

Liquor stores, which cannot sell alcohol until noon on Sundays, unless the sales are banned by their community’s local licensing authority, are not affected by the change.

Dave Andelman, creator of the Phantom Gourmet television show, suggested this spring that legislators consider the change as a way to help struggling restaurants. He said two more hours of drink sales during brunch will bring in thousands of extra dollars per week for some restaurants and millions annually to the state through the meals tax.

“You’re talking tens of millions of dollars to the state, to the cities and towns,’’ he said yesterday, racing through revenue figures. “This will have a massive impact.’’

Uliss said he expects to sell at least 60 of his restaurants’ homemade Bloody Marys before noon this Sunday, when the law goes into effect. He estimated the morning drinks will earn him $22,000 more per year.

“And then the Commonwealth gets 6 1/4 percent of that,’’ he said of the meals tax. “It’s a beautiful thing.’’

Edward Saunders, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which is the public policy office of the state’s Catholic churches, said, “We have no reaction at this time.’’

David Deiuliis, local chapter spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said, “We have no problem with the legal sale of alcohol by licensed establishments, whatever the law is, as long as they’re not overserving patrons.’’

The bill was cosponsored in the Senate by two Democrats and two Republicans, including GOP lieutenant governor candidate Richard Tisei, who said it passed unanimously in both chambers.

“It’s a way to help out restaurants without spending any money,’’ Tisei said.

At Deep Ellum in Allston, noon on Sundays have traditionally been one of the more trying times for the bartender, said manager Dave Cagle.

“On Sundays, every single person here eating breakfast is waiting for the exact minute it turns noon,’’ Cagle said. “And then right at noon the bartender is making like 40 drinks.’’

The bar, which is known for its unusual drink menu, should be full this Sunday with early risers drinking Irish coffees and Ramos Gin Fizzes, Cagle said. “It certainly will add a couple hundred bucks a week to business.’’

Andelman said the law will spark a booming brunch culture and especially help restaurants near Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium before 1 p.m. games.

But, most importantly, he said, it’s about freedom. “If I want to take my parents out for their anniversary and I want to do a champagne toast, I got to wait till noon?’’ he said. “C’mon. We’re the birthplace of freedom.’’

Jack Nicas can be reached at jnicas@globe.com.

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