More the merrier: Locals come out to support taproom ordinance

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, November 8, 2018

When it comes to downtown Elizabethton and businesses, Jiggy Ray’s co-owner Bull Malone is a believer in the old motto “the more the merrier”. 

“I have said it since day one that I think we have the prettiest downtown in the world,” said Malone. “You look at Johnson City and Bristol which are beautiful downtowns but look at what we are surrounded by. I want new businesses to come down here and experience what we have to offer.”

Wednesday night, Jiggy Ray’s hosted a support rally for Riverside Taphouse, a business that is in the progress of being opened by local couple Cheri Tinney and Michael Howell. The opening is dependent on whether or not the Elizabethton City Council will pass an ordinance change permitting the operation of pub bars in the city limits. The ordinance amendment will allow for businesses that only serve fermented drinks such as beer, wine, and ciders while not serving food. 

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“We have been so fortunate and blessed that the community has supported us as a small business,” said Malone. “There is that stigma of selling alcohol. You know, we sell beer, but we also support every school in Carter County. We are a family run business. 

“We don’t support people coming in here getting hammered drunk,” added Malone. “We want it to be a family environment. I don’t see anything wrong with the taproom coming and selling alcohol. It is not a gateway to Drugville. Let’s show support to someone who’s wanting to invest their time and money into our town.”

Both Howell and Tinney were in attendance during Wednesday’s event, and Howell said he was happy to see the amount of support the couple and their new business is getting. 

“It really means the world to us to have a local business like Jiggy Ray’s go out of their way to support us,” said Howell. “They did this without us asking or anything, and just did this because they support what we are doing and would like to see this change.

“When we first introduced ourselves to the owners and let them know what we are doing, they were ecstatic,” added Howell. “They immediately said, ‘What can we do?'”

 Patty Brown, who currently lives in Hampton, was at Jiggy Ray’s Wednesday and said she supports the new taproom and that it could bring something new to downtown. 

“I think it is a really good idea because they are trying to get the downtown rejuvenated,” said Brown. “This should bring in a lot of the younger crowds in. They like their IPA beers and their taprooms. . . It should really help since it will bring in a different crowd.”

The second reading of the ordinance change was up for a vote during the October city council, but after hearing some concerns from some residents, the council voted to defer the decision to a later date. The ordinance change passed its first reading, 5-1, in September. 

Currently, the Elizabethton City Planning and Development Director, Jon Hartman, is reworking the ordinance change so it can go back in front of the city council for a vote. 

“Right now, we are just trying to get a consensus from the council as to what they want,” said Hartman. “We have some options prepared for them.”

Looking at other communities, growth and development usually involve the inclusion of taprooms and breweries, said Hartman. 

“We see other communities and we have seen the progress that they have made,” said Hartman. “As a component of that, many of them, whether it is taproom or breweries, they include some type of artisanal or craft beverage. This is par for the course as we continue to grow.”

Jiggy Ray’s recently put together a petition in support of taprooms in the downtown, and Chandra Morton, who works at Jiggy Ray’s and played a part in getting Wednesday’s support rally organized, said Tuesday that the petition had already reached 300 signatures before Wednesday night’s event. 

On hand during the rally was Elizabethton’s Jason Simerly, who said that taprooms and other businesses like it are the keys needed to keep Elizabethton relevant. 

“Elizabethton is just going to become a pass-through town more than we are now if we don’t allow more stuff to come here,” said Simerly. “We have to encourage more stuff to come here. It is not going to be the older generation that comes down to the car show every Saturday that is going to keep this town alive. We have to accommodate our younger crowd.”