Council needs to re-craft ordinance change for pub owners

Published 9:03 am Monday, October 15, 2018

The Elizabethton City Council wisely deferred a vote this past week on the second reading of an ordinance change that would give pub bars the green light to open up in town.
Council deferred its vote after a consensus could not be reached on the question and after some opposition was voiced by a number of citizens — some of whom are completely against serving beer because of their religious beliefs. Regardless of the eventual outcome, some people are going to be unhappy. Many pointed to the neighboring cities of Johnson City and Bristol and what has happened there — downtowns that have been taken over by pubs and taprooms.
Council’s argument for the ordinance change is to grow the town and attract more people and business to the downtown, thus increasing tax revenue.
But, many people in the downtown like the “simple life,” safe sidewalks, and alcohol-free businesses.
Elizabethton businessman Joe Alexander suggested he could support the ordinance change to allow pub bars, but only if patrons drink the beers or ciders inside the establishments and not on city streets. Alexander’s suggestion has merit to it since Elizabethton’s downtown sidewalks are a draw for walkers as they are covered and well-lit.
Those arguing for the pubs say craft breweries are ideal for small-town revitalization. It is true, that if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and Elizabethton can’t sit here stagnant forever, especially when area cities are exploding with people and businesses. It is also true that pubs and taprooms are making an impact on local economies and businesses by creating jobs and getting involved in communities.
Brews can be completely distinct and unique to a town’s flavor. Just last year, 184 new breweries opened, and soon there will be a place for every palate in the United States.
Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers. Most are willing to move into areas in need of rehabilitation, are often generous to small businesses and charities, and have a passion for specific causes, such as sustainability.
Different from bars that serve wine and spirits alongside beer, breweries feature varying experimental versions and brands. Classified as an “attraction,” breweries typically close early but still fit in with a town’s food and booze scene.
The beer industry provided more than 424,000 jobs — with more than 115,000 jobs directly at breweries — and contributed $55.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014. And that’s not to mention that wages in the beer industry are among the highest of the 350 industries surveyed in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Furthermore, just one job at a craft brewery will create an additional 45 jobs in other industries on average, such as packaging, business services, distributing, transportation and agriculture.
We remember the fight that local citizens put up several years ago when package stores were first allowed by the county commission. The courthouse was packed for every hearing on a proposed beer permit. Now, no one hardly shows up for a hearing.
We still live in a protected community where religious convictions are strong and the small-town way of life is valued.
Yet, we are a community that is infested with drugs. To prove it, take a look at the Carter County Sessions Court docket each week and the number of drug cases that are heard, including related theft and shoplifting cases.
We cannot regulate right and wrong or what is moral and immoral. That is a personal conviction for each of us.
However, we do want growth for our downtown, but we want growth that maintains safe sidewalks to walk on, and that is inviting for families.
We advise council to go to the drawing board and come up with a better proposal — one that we can all live with, both pub owners and the general public.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox