By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Sunday brunch is about to get some punch. And it's spiked.
City Council is poised to easily pass a 2010 local-option state law that would allow restaurants with liquor licenses to start serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Restaurants are prohibited from selling alcohol on Sunday until noon, unless their host community passes the local-option law.
The License Commission unanimously endorsed the measure Thursday, setting the table for the council to take it up later this month.
If the law is adopted by Haverhill, individual restaurants could then apply to the License Commission for the extended Sunday hours. The commission would decide requests on a case-by-case basis, Chairman Joseph Edwards said.
The law allows any establishment with a liquor license, including bars, to be eligible to apply for extended Sunday hours. Edwards said he would only support giving it to restaurants that serve brunch, however.
"This isn't carte blanche for 10 a.m. drinking on Sunday," Edwards said. "We'll have to be convinced it's for brunch."
Five of nine councilors reached yesterday said they support the extended Sunday hours.
"I have no problem with extending the Sunday drinking hours, and I don't expect anyone else on the council will either," President Robert Scatamacchia said. "The commission is pretty strict and does a good job watching the restaurants to make sure they don't over-serve people, so as long as that remains the case I don't see any reason not to help our restaurants with this."
Several councilors said the key part of the law for them is that the commission would retain discretion over which establishments it allows to take advantage of the extended Sunday hours.
"I would only want to see it given to restaurants that serve food, not bars," Councilor Michael McGonagle said. "Since that seems to be the intent, I'll support it."
Councilors Colin LePage, Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien said John Michitson said they will also vote yes.
"Times they are a changing," Michitson said, quoting Bob Dylan.
The local-option law was originally proposed by Dave Andelman, creator of the “Phantom Gourmet,” a popular television show that critiques restaurants. Andelman formed the Restaurant and Business Alliance in 2010 to push the extended Sunday hours and other legislation to help restaurants.
Vincent Errichetti, executive director of the restaurant lobby, said Haverhill's adoption of the law will help restaurants here compete with restaurants in nearby New Hampshire.
"As (Haverhill) is a border community, it is nice to give New Hampshire (residents) a reason to come to Haverhill," Errichetti said.
Edwards said the commission is taking up the measure now at the request of The Barking Dog Ale House, a new downtown restaurant that opened several months ago on Washington Street.
Representatives from two other Haverhill restaurants have also indicated their interest in the extended Sunday hours. Ivan Yee, who owns Oriental Gradens, and Sharon Cohen, who manages The Tap Brewhouse, both said they support passage of the local-option law.
On days of the week other than Sunday, Haverhill restaurants with liquor licenses can serve alcohol from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., or until 2 a.m. on Saturdays.