The work session with Harrogate city leaders, held early last week, netted an even split between two distinct camps of thought when the issue of Sunday beer sales was tackled, leaving Mayor Linda Fultz holding the proverbial bag.
However, Fultz did not divulge just which way she will vote, saying she wanted a bit more time to research the matter.
She did admit she is “on the fence” about the issue, but wanted to make sure she voted the wishes of the residents within her district.
Fultz said she had just one person request that there be no sale of beer on Sundays. Others asked how the city could justify not allowing Sunday beer sales when nearby Tazewell and Cumberland Gap has allowed the action, she said.
The issue came before the council when the Oasis Restaurant changed hands. The new owners were informed during the permit process that the city currently allows no Sunday beer sales.
The owners requested that the ordinances be amended to allow the practice, setting into motion a cry from neighboring residents against the sale of beer on Sundays.
The neighbors cited noise levels as the main complaint, saying partying drinkers routinely spill onto the newly built back porch and kick up a ruckus playing outdoor games in the yard of the Oasis property.
Oasis operations manager Gil Elliott, who was vocal during the last Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting about his wishes for a quick vote on the issue, was conspicuously absent during the work session.
One neighbor said the Oasis is “clearly selling beer on Sundays,” adding she had witnessed patrons openly consuming the drink while looking through the slats of the privacy fence.
Fultz said she wished Elliott was present to address the issue. She said the “blatant” disregard of the city ordinances has cast a shadow on her initial thoughts about the amendment.
Alderman Gary Burchett said he was told the Oasis openly sells beer on Sundays on the package store side of the establishment but that management has refrained from selling beer with food on the restaurant side.
Burchett said his personal convictions about the issue would prevent him from voting for Sunday beer sales.
“I don’t see why six days a week isn’t enough time for anyone to tank up,” said Burchett.
Alderperson Sylvia Donahoe agreed with the assessment, saying her religious convictions would prevent her from voting in favor of the issue.
Donahoe said she had tried to contact the previous owners to clear up the issue as to whether they had sold beer on Sundays.
As for the last 38 years, Donahoe said, she had not personally witnessed the Oasis being open on Sundays.
Aldermen Lieven Cox and Allen Hurst agreed with one another in that they would likely vote for the drafted ordinance. However, Cox said he would like to see an amendment to the ordinance barring the sale of beer after midnight.
“I do sympathize with you,” said Cox, referring to Oasis neighbor Rick Chumley.
As of the date of the work session, the BMA was expected to officially vote on the matter during its next regular monthly meeting on July 20.
The council is likely to amend the current draft to allow beer sales on Sunday from the hours of 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and weekdays from 8 a.m. to midnight.
If adopted, the ordinance is expected to go into effect by the end of July.
Last year, the city received some $70,000 in beer tax revenues from the distributors.
The Oasis is the only establishment within the city limits that sells beer.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.