Sunday beer sales – round 2

The Harrogate board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) spent a protracted amount of time last week pummeling to the ground the issue of Sunday beer sales. However, no clear winner was announced as the board decided to forego voting on the matter until more review could be done.

The BMA has already spent an inordinate amount of time wrestling with the issue. During its May meeting, it was decided to table the matter until the board could meet at a regularly scheduled work session to hash out concerns. However, that session was canceled, forcing the issue to resurface during the June BMA meeting.

When the Oasis Restaurant changed hands, the new owners asked the city to consider allowing the sale of beer on Sundays and election days. Apparently, the former owners unwittingly violated existing ordinances when they elected to sell beer on Sundays.

An ordinance amending the hours and days beer can be sold inside the city was drafted and brought to the council table for a vote.

Rick Chumley, whose home butts up against the Oasis property, asked the BMA last month not to adopt the ordinance due to the noise levels created by customers of the popular establishment.

At that time, Chumley said he and his 85-year-old mother needed at least one day “of peace” each week.

Last week, Chumley returned with a prepared statement again requesting that current beer ordinances barring Sunday sales remain intact.

Gil Elliott, operations manager of the Oasis, was present, as well, and had plenty to say about how the unresolved issue is cramping his business.

Elliott said his 24 employees depend on the income generated through working on Sundays.

“I had zero customers Sunday, because I had to explain to them why we no longer sell beer,” said Elliott.

Prior to the change in ownership, Elliott said, the Oasis had enjoyed Sunday beer sales for 12 years “with no incidents.”

Elliott said he has attempted to abide by every regulation. He said there would be no outside music or bands generating noise on Sundays and that he would keep noise levels around the drive-through and inside the building at a minimum.

A privacy fence has been constructed to help alleviate concerns with activities occurring on the new back porch, he said.

The new owners, he said, sunk some $250,000 into remodeling the Oasis, spending $45,000 on resurfacing the parking lot.

Chumley said the Oasis, under the old management, was a much quieter establishment.

Elliott agreed with the assessment, saying the addition of new games and the change in demographics has much to do with the increase in the noise levels.

“(On just one occasion) I had 24 medical students out back. They were eating pizza, they were drinking beer and playing (games). These were activities that were never approved by the Oasis before,” said Elliott.

To resolve the issue, the new owners apparently offered to purchase the Chumley residence. However, Elliott said Chumley’s $500,000 appraisal is a bit too steep and suggested a second appraisal be done.

According to Elliott, the city currently receives approximately $7,000 per month in taxes generated through beer sales at the Oasis.

He reminded the board that neighboring Tazewell and Cumberland Gap allows the sale of liquor by the drink on Sundays. He asked the board members if they wanted to send those extra tax dollars from Sunday beer sales to another city.

After a bit more discussion, Mayor Linda Fultz said the council needs to take a second look at the ordinance to decide if the current draft is feasible. In particular, the board will decide whether the hours stated in the document reflects a practical approach to Sunday beer sales.

Elliott became upset and walked out of the meeting after realizing the BMA would not be voting on the matter that night. He said he was losing money every day this issue was unresolved. He said he needed a definitive answer so he could begin restructuring his business where necessary.

It took the board more than a few minutes to decide the legal approach needed so that more review could be done. Since the matter had been tabled during the last meeting, some on the board said they felt the drafted ordinance could be lost altogether if a motion to vote on the second and final reading was not made.

Since the board wanted to have the option to amend the existing draft, it was finally decided to postpone the vote until more review could be done during the next work session, scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 14.

The regular monthly meeting of the BMA will occur a week earlier than usual, at 6 p.m. on July 20.

Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.

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