To Pub or not to Pub

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, October 10, 2018

EPD Chief responds to concerns ahead of upcoming Thursday council decision

Many local residents will be keeping an eye on the Thursday meeting of the Elizabethton City Council as the council will be taking into consideration and acting on the second reading and public hearing surrounding an ordinance to amend The Municipal Code 2015, Title 8 and Title 14 to allow pub bars in B-1 and B-3 zones.

There are many residents and patrons of the downtown business district that have varying opinions on how the change to the ordinance would impact the downtown façade.

One of the critical questions is how would the addition of these pubs challenge local law enforcement who will be tasked with making sure that families will always feel safe whether they are shopping or just out for an evening walk.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I am sure it can be looked at probably, either way, depending on whether you are for or against it,” said Elizabethton Chief of Police Jason Shaw. “I want to be supportive of businesses coming into downtown.

“If you have a business in a currently empty building, then that allows for jobs, growth and things of that nature.

“We have a lot of folks that use the downtown area at night,” Shaw continued. “If a business comes in that produces an environment that folks don’t like, I think that may be a factor in how the business either gets business or gears their business toward a type of customer that they want to attract you might say.

“I think anybody doesn’t want to draw in folks that don’t want to add to a good atmosphere.”

The subject of allowing pubs has many casting a wary eye to how the changed ordinance may affect the possibility of increased criminal activity in the downtown area.

From Shaw’s understanding, the pubs that are considering coming will not be serving a wide arrangement of alcoholic beverages but will be more focused on the ever-growing craft beer market and the possibility of wine.

“One of the pubs that are wanting to come from my understanding is that their plan involves using local craft beers and different things, so I don’t think the atmosphere is going to be something that someone is going to go and get rowdy so to speak,” Shaw stated.

“Patrons of that type of environment go and sample different types of beer or just one or two drinks. If we have more empty buildings occupied and we have more folks downtown, obviously we will have more of a need to be out and about downtown and checking different things.

“I don’t want to say a couple of different pubs downtown will drive some major increase in crime.”

According to Shaw, there are guidelines already in place to help ensure that any new establishments would have to follow that will add tremendously to making sure that their customers stay out of the eyes of local law enforcement.

“They would have to follow the alcohol guidelines that are already in place,” added Shaw. “The folks that serve alcohol have to be trained to recognize when to cut somebody off.

“Having those limits established helps to keep their business. You don’t want to have someone in a business that is rowdy because it will keep others from coming back.”

With the possibility of pubs being real, many taxpayers may question whether these establishments will force the police department to request additional taxpayer money to cover any additional officers should the need present itself.

From Shaw’s perspective, the tax revenues generated from the addition of the pubs to the downtown could possibly be seen as an opportunity to cover needs that the department now has.

“We want the revenue to happen, and if it does require some more resources, then having that revenue in place would be helpful,” Shaw stated. “I think it would have to be a very significant increase to drive more need for officers.

“We are hoping to be able to get three more officers started to place in our elementary schools as SRO’s. So, having an opportunity to have some empty buildings occupied and producing business and revenue — that could be a key to some funding that is needed.”

Shaw understands the concerns of some surrounding the approval of pubs coming to downtown, but he also realizes the nature of mankind and how they respond.

As a result, the police chief doesn’t see things changing that much if the ordinance is approved.

“If there’s a person who gets rowdy there, they will get rowdy anywhere they would be,” Shaw stated. “I don’t see a big police issue or greater demand.

“We are here to do what we need to do, and I am supportive of the council’s wishes if they want to have the pubs or not.”