Brunch bill delayed to second vote in February
In a 3-2 vote, the Bryson City Town Board of Aldermen once again failed to pass what has become known as the “brunch bill” on Monday, Jan. 8 that would allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 10 a.m. as opposed to noon.
Since the vote in favor of the change was not a two-thirds majority, the issue must go for a second reading by the board during the February meeting before passing, according to Town Attorney Fred Moody.
State statute 160A-75 states: “No ordinance nor any action having the effect of any ordinance may be finally adopted on the date on which it is introduced except by an affirmative vote equal to or greater than two thirds of all the actual membership of the council, excluding vacant seats and not including the mayor.”
“On a second vote, a three-two will pass it,” said Mayor Tom Sutton.
Although the board voted down the change to the Sunday alcohol sales ordinance back in August, the issue was resubmitted to the board following the election of a new alderman in November.
“The composition of the board has changed, so we revisited the issue,” Sutton said.
Adoption would change the current town ordinance to allow sales of malt beverages, unfortified wine, fortified wine and mixed beverages starting at 10 a.m. Sunday and ending at 2 a.m. Currently, alcohol sales are permitted from noon Sunday-6 p.m. in town.
Voting in favor of the change were Heidi Woodard and Ben King, along with mayor Sutton. Jim Gribble and Janine Crisp voted against the changes.
“I have been weighing on this issue…and listening to people who have come to me, not as business owners, but as workers,” Woodard said prior to the vote. “It is their way of life, their livelihood that is affected…and I’m still leaning toward adopting the bill.”
Sutton said he’s heard more people are in favor it than against the change.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this on both sides and I’ve gotten a lot more input that says pass it than I have don’t pass it,” Sutton said. “I know it’s not going to be decision that makes everybody happy, but I think on the whole it’s the smart thing to do.”
Crisp read from a statement prior to the vote explaining her reasoning for being against changes to the ordinance.
“Since apparently the plea to respect the convictions of the people in this community that revere that day as sacred is not going to make a difference, I respectfully ask that you consider the following: with increased availability comes an increase in adverse impacts as well. I implore this board to not let dollar signs come before the well-being of others who live in this city,” she said.
“Will this change improve life or the well-being for everyone? If not, then you must oppose this measure,” Crisp said.
Alderman Gribble stated that he was not opposed to changing the portion of the ordinance that restrict retail sales from noon to 6 p.m., but he did not want to make a change to Sunday morning alcohol sales.
“My concern was the people working the retail store who caught flack from people coming in wanting to buy alcohol after six o’clock, that’s what I was trying to help with,” Gribble said. “My thoughts on sales on Sunday morning, I was opposed to it, I’ve been opposed to it, but I would vote for after six sales.”
Before the vote, board members heard from the public on the issue. Speaking for the business community was Chad Wood, Budweiser of Asheville and Sylva manager. “I’m here tonight to represent retailers, owners, managers, and business establishments here in Bryson City, to approach you about the idea of changing the ordinance of Sunday Sales that limits the hours from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays,” Wood said.
In the 12 counties we service, Wood said, Bryson City is the only town in our area that restricts hours on Sundays. A lot of retailers I was visiting with last week were talking about turning away a number of customers, particularly on New Year’s Eve, simply because it fell on a Sunday. I think it would only be fair to businesses here in Bryson City to allow that, he said.
Trey Barnett, Nantahala and Pigeon marketing specialist for Wildwater, added that working with tourists, they see this as a hospitality issue. Working with a lot of tourists, we hear a lot of complaints about not being able to buy alcohol before noon or after six, he said. “I would like to support this as well.”
In other business, the Board heard from Ed Ciociola, owner of Calhoun House on Bryson Avenue regarding the paving of Wheeler Street. According to Ciociola, the street, which runs up to the Calhoun House from behind, has grass growing up in the middle and sections of the road that are completely peeled off.
“We’ve decided to renovate and update…and do it as vacation rentals,” Ciociola said. We see hundreds of people, all of these people are paying taxes. That is revenue for the town. It would be really nice if people who come to the house didn’t have to think the town didn’t care enough to fix their roads.”