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Wednesday, 16 August 2017 13:42

Bryson City board unsure about passing ‘brunch bill’

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Bryson City Board of Aldermen has been discussing potential changes to alcohol regulations that could allow local businesses to sell earlier and later on Sundays.

Bryson City is the first town to discuss possible local adoption of the new statewide law — so-called “Brunch Bill” — to allow restaurants to serve alcohol at 10 a.m. Sundays instead of having to wait until noon.

Many town governments said they wouldn’t consider local adoption of the new law unless they received a request. Ron LaRoque, co-owner of Everett Hotel and The Bistro at Everett in Bryson City, was the first to make such a request.

While several aldermen seemed on the fence about making the change to allow earlier sales on Sunday for businesses wanting to serve alcoholic beverages with brunch, Alderman Janine Crisp made her position clear in a prepared statement. She said she spoke for a large contingent of the community when she said she was against any change to the current alcohol regulations.

“The fact is that we live in the heart of the Bible Belt and many people in Bryson City and Swain County take it as an offense to their faith and to the tenants they hold firmly to in their faith when we allow changes like this to be made that runs contrary to their will,” Crisp said. “They also feel marginalized when their governing bodies do not regard their will and that is a precarious place for us to find ourselves given the fact that we are elected officials.”

Crisp’s statement also includes opposition to another local regulation the town board was considering changing. Currently, the town doesn’t allow beer and wine sales at grocery stores and convenience stores after 6 p.m. on Sundays. The odd and isolated regulation is confusing for tourists who often get upset at the grocery store when they can’t buy a six-pack after 6 p.m.

“We have alcohol available for sale and purchase six days a week and for a generous amount of time on the seventh. I feel, and many others feel, that this is more than enough,” Crisp said. “We would do well to remember that it’s for our community and because of our community that we are here. Not to be a voice for ourselves but, as their elected official, to yield to their will.”

The board ended up tabling the issue until its next meeting, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, at town hall. Aldermen said they would take that time to talk to constituents about the issue.

Bryson City residents will have a chance to weigh in on another alcohol-related issue when they go to vote in November. The ballot will include a referendum regarding a change to the town’s ordinance regulating on-premise and off-premise sales of beer and wine.

For retail stores in Bryson City to sell and serve beer on premises, they have to obtain an ABC permit and operate as a private club with a membership fee. If the change is approved by voters, retail establishments — like Bryson City Outdoors that recently expanded to sell craft beer — would only have to obtain a license to sell beer, which would save business owners $600 a year. The cost of an on-premise beer license is $400 a year compared to $1,000 a year for a mixed beverage license. The board passed the referendum measure 3 to 1 with Crisp being the only opposition.

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