— Local tourism dollars set to rise sharply with a successful November vote
On November 8, Jefferson County voters, in addition to voting for their president, governor, and state and elected representatives, will be asked another question: “Shall the beginning hour at which non-intoxicating beer, wine, and alcoholic liquor be sold or dispensed for on premises consumption only in Jefferson County on Sundays be changed from one o’clock p.m. to ten o’clock a.m.”
Simply put, can our bars, taverns, and restaurants start serving alcoholic drinks at 10am on Sundays?
The legislation, dubbed “The Brunch Bill,” was introduced earlier this year in Charleston, and the effort to pass the bill was led by the Jefferson County delegation—and passed with bi-partisan support. The bill requires that counties “opt-in” to the legislation, which is why voters will be asked to approve this change in law in November.
Brunch means business for Jefferson County. It’s why our local tourism agency and members of our tourism industry led the charge in Charleston. Today, we are at a competitive disadvantage with tourism and hospitality businesses across the rivers in Maryland and Virginia—their hotels and restaurants can serve their Sunday brunch customers a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with their meal, while Jefferson County businesses cannot. We need to level the playing field, and we hope that our county’s voters agree.
Jefferson County hosts more than three million visitors a year. Tourism is our county’s largest industry, and employs a third of our workforce—nearly 7,500 jobs. Food sales are the second-highest expenditure by tourists here—over $200 million annually—second only to gaming expenditures. For every visitor who chooses to stay at a Jefferson County hotel, we collect a six percent bed tax. These are dollars generated locally that stay here in Jefferson County. Charleston doesn’t get to touch these dollars. These bed tax revenues fund our tourism agency, the County Historic Landmarks Commission, our parks and recreation, and the Jefferson County Arts Council.
The City of Charleston began their earlier sales at the beginning of August. On the first Sunday of 10am sales, businesses reported seeing as much as an 80 percent increase in sales over previous Sundays. Some restaurants report they’ll be staffing their Sunday brunch shifts with as many employees as they would a Friday night.
Jefferson County’s tourism industry is 36 percent bigger than Kanawha County (Charleston), so you can only imagine the economic impact the earlier Sunday sales will have for our county’s hospitality businesses.
We are privileged to receive a tremendous amount of support from businesses and individuals from around the County, as well as bi-partisan support from our elected officials. Please remember to vote YES on November 8. Success is critical for the future of the tourism industry in Jefferson County.
— ARTICLE BY: Christian Asam and Annette Gavin
Christian is Chairman of the Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau and co-owner of the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown. Annette Gavin is the CEO of the Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.