CHARLESTON — West Virginians can now purchase liquor after 1 p.m. on Sundays after Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill to allow the sales into law Thursday.
The law took effect immediately, and the first Sunday liquor sales will be made this weekend. Some business owners are embracing the change, while others are taking steps to reconfigure staffing arrangements.
Christina Saad-McNeely, general manager at Stadium Spirits, Saad's Wines and Spirits, and Southside Spirits, said it will likely be a couple of weeks before the stores are prepared to be staffed on Sundays due to the short notice.
She said she has mixed feelings about the bill.
"I think it is a great opportunity in some ways for the state of West Virginia to be open for business and not stay in the times of the past where everything was extremely limited on Sundays," Saad-McNeely said. "On the other hand, for myself and my staff, I think a day off is deserved. I think it leads to staffing issues, and I think it hurts small local businesses more than big-box stores that are already open on Sundays."
Not everyone had received confirmation about a change in policy as of Friday afternoon. Jacob Campbell, a manager at the Southridge Walmart Supercenter in South Charleston, said that official word had not come down that the store would begin selling liquor on Sundays.
"We have not been told," he said.
The change in the law affects more than liquor stores. Local distillers in the state often build tasting rooms alongside their distilleries, where they also can sell whiskey and related merchandise. While the distilleries themselves may be running through the weekend, the tasting rooms close on Sundays.
Val Collela, the tasting room manager for the Smooth Ambler distillery in Greenbrier County, said their tasting room was completely driven by when they could and couldn't sell. There would be little point to open a store when you can't sell any products.
She said the distillery had become aware of the change in the law but hadn't made any decision about whether they'd open the tasting room on Sundays or when they might start, if they decided to.
"Honestly, we just heard about the change in the law and we haven't had time to really talk about it," Collela said.
Still, she thought it was a good development.
"I think it's good for small business," Collela said.
Taylor Freeman, master distiller at Appalachian Distillery in Jackson County, said she knew the bill had been up for debate, but not that it had passed and been signed into law.
After pausing a moment, she talked with her father, Dwayne Freeman, the owner and founder of the Ripley-based distillery, who was busy pouring moonshine out of a vat.
"Well, it looks like we're going to start opening on Sunday," she said and laughed. "That's great news."
The distiller wasn't sure how soon Appalachian Distillery would change its hours, but seemed to believe it wouldn't be long.