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Wednesday, 11 October 2017 14:04

Brunch bill languishes in Maggie Valley

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The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen took no action Oct. 9 on the so-called “brunch bill” that’s been making the rounds of Western North Carolina governments since its passage in the General Assembly earlier this year, but it’s clear that the debate over extending alcohol service hours on Sunday mornings has entered some surprising new territory, on both sides of the issue.

What’s not surprising is that the town did not vote on a proposed ordinance; action was neither required nor expected, especially after Maggie Valley Mayor Saralyn Price said Oct. 3 she hoped the board wouldn’t vote on the night of the Oct. 9 public hearing so that the board would have time to take under advisement the concerns of the community.

And even that hearing wasn’t required; an ordinance allowing for the sale of both on-premise and off-premise alcohol sales on Sundays at 10 a.m., rather than noon, didn’t require a public hearing at all.

It almost didn’t get one, either; two aldermen — Clayton Davis and Phillip Wight — voted against holding a public hearing. In Wight’s case, he said at the time that the ordinance wasn’t relevant in a community with admittedly few brunch spots.

But both proponents and detractors of the proposed ordinance showed up Oct. 9 anyway, hoping to sway board members who appear, at least publicly, to be as yet undecided on the issue.

Teresa Smith spoke first, as executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, at whose suggestion the bill was originally entertained by the board.

Smith explained that her organization backed the proposed ordinance, primarily for economic development reasons.

“As the Chamber of Commerce for Maggie Valley, we feel that it is our duty to uphold the economic impact that this bill could have on Maggie Valley,” Smith said.

But in what is a necessarily late development in the story of how the brunch bill has been presented in other jurisdictions, Smith cited a long list of neighboring towns and counties that had already passed an ordinance, implying that Maggie Valley would be left behind in the highly competitive economic development arena.

“We would like to see this bill passed so that future businesses who are looking to relocate or open a new business in the valley would consider us,” she said.

If Smith merely implied it, distillery owner Dave Angel flat out said it.

“I sat down and did the math. There’s about eight or nine vacant restaurants in Maggie Valley right now,” Angel told the board. “We should be doing everything in our power to help potential restaurateurs be attracted to Maggie Valley, that see a chance for survival in Maggie Valley, and want to do business here. Why would we want to limit the opportunities they have to be successful, when this is a very simple way of doing it?”

The Waynesville resident Angel owns Elevated Mountain Distillery on Soco Road in Maggie Valley; as such, a brunch ordinance in Maggie Valley means little to him, at least directly — he’s not open on Sundays, doesn’t serve food and plans to do neither.

But he’s still been advocating before local boards — Waynesville in particular — saying that although it would indirectly benefit him if establishments that carried his brand of locally-produced spirits opened an extra two hours a week, he’s more concerned with the signal a brunch bill sends to potential developers.

“North Carolina is the fifth-largest beer state, we have over 60 distilleries and that number will probably be 80 by the end of next year,” Angel said. “If you look at Haywood, Henderson and Buncombe counties, over $1 billion has been spent on beer, wine and spirit manufacturing in these counties alone, and 2,500 of our neighbors work in this industry.”

He continued on the economic development aspects of his argument, highlighting the “left behind” mantra and said he’d talked personally with two breweries in the last year that had looked at property in Maggie Valley, but had taken a pass.

“As a county, we need to be saying everything we can to people who are in the position of bringing the next big brewery — the next Sierra Nevada, the next New Belgium — we need them to be looking at Haywood County,” Angel said. “If Asheville and Buncombe County are all about it, and Sylva and Jackson County are all about it, they’re not going to come to Haywood County if parts of Haywood County are on the fence about the opportunity to bring that business in.”

Not everyone, however, seems to want that business in Haywood County, or in Maggie Valley.

“I’ve lived here since nineteen and fifty-one,” said Rich Cove resident Agnes Moody. “We were over here when the town was beginning. They said no liquors, no beer joints, no nothing like that. Now look at it. It’s everywhere.”

Last to speak was Wayne Burgess, representing the first Baptist Church of Maggie Valley.

“At 10 a.m., we feel like it’s God’s time,” Burgess said. “You need to be in church. Getting you there is another problem, you know, but anything that can hinder someone to make our values better as far as moral standards — we’ve been going in the wrong direction for a few years. I’d like to see that turn around. So at this time, I’d like to ask the board to vote this brunch bill down.”

Burgess’ comments on behalf of First Baptist represent another instance of the now-persistent religious opposition to the brunch bill; Bethel Baptist Rev. Roy Kilby spoke out against Canton’s proposed ordinance weeks ago, but no one spoke against it at all in Waynesville.

Maggie Valley aldermen have no clear course of action at the moment; the board may decide to do nothing, or may decide to schedule a vote at an upcoming meeting.

For any brunch ordinance to pass in Maggie Valley on its first reading, a two-thirds majority of the board is required, which means that a 3-2 decision won’t suffice.

A simple majority on second reading, however, would.


Brunch bill to be heard in Canton

The Town of Canton Board of Aldermen/women will hold a public hearing to solicit opinions on the expansion of Sunday morning alcohol service hours.

Since its passage by the N.C. General Assembly earlier this summer, the “brunch bill” has generated substantial controversy in some municipalities, and nowhere more so than in Canton; the expanded service hours aren’t automatic, and must be passed by each municipality or county before they take effect.

The measure allows, among other things, permitees to begin selling both on-premise and off-premise alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays, rather than the current noon start.

Asheville moved quickly to pass the bill, and Waynesville passed it without controversy Sept. 12, but local temperance crusader Rev. Roy Kilby denounced it in a Canton board meeting weeks ago, and proprietors at two Canton bars — BearWaters Brewing and Southern Porch — didn’t seem to think the relatively minor increase would have much effect on their respective businesses.

• What: Brunch bill public hearing

• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12

• Where: Canton Town Hall, 58 Park Street

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