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Downtown pub houses pass first of two reading by Elizabethton City Council

John Thompson • Updated Sep 13, 2018 at 9:52 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Downtown Elizabethton may soon have specialty pubs similar to the Johnson City Brewery’s Tap Room and the Atlantic Ale House.

During Thursday night’s monthly meeting, the City Council passed on the first of two readings to amend the city’s ordinance to allow such operations. The second reading will be held in October. The ordinance change was recommended by the Elizabethton Planning Commission.

A few months ago, the council amended ordinances to allow microbreweries to be regulated and allowed downtown. The latest change comes after a potential business expressed interest in locating a tap room in downtown. The business would specialize in the sale of craft beers and ciders made by local artisans. The business might eventually include local wines, but the change in the ordinance would only allow alcoholic drinks that are fermented, such as beers, ales, ciders and wines. Distilled beverages, such as whiskeys would not be allowed.

The ordinance change would be required because it currently does not allow “alcohol only” establishments. Jon Hartman, director of planning and development, said the ordinance would permit the sale of food items, but there is no requirement that a percentage of sales go for food. 

The prospective owner of the business told the Johnson City Press on Wednesday that the plan would be to invite food truck vendors to the location for their customers. That model is similar to the Atlantic Ale House in Johnson City. The venue would also be close to Jiggy Ray’s pizzeria.

Jeff Treadway asked about potential problems. He suggested the number of pubs could be capped in a manner that the City Council did when it permitted liquor stores to be permitted in the city. Hartman said that was possible and suggested it could be done by population, such as one pub per 4,000 people. Since the pubs would be selling beer, the establishments would have to obtain beer permits from the Elizabethton Beer Board. That would not be the case with an establishment selling only wine.

The council voted 5-1 on first reading to amend the city’s ordinance. Vice Mayor William Carter cast the lone dissenting vote. “My gut feeling is that we already have enough places that sell alcohol,” Carter said. Carter said he decided that the council must still vote on the matter after the public hearing and second reading, so he has time to more thoroughly study the proposal. Councilman Richard Tester was absent.

In other matters, the council observed the promotion of Elizabethton Police Officer Matt Sexton to the rank of sergeant. Sexton has served in the department since 2009. He has worked as a patrol officer and housing officer, and has been assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division as a vice/narcotics officer. He has served as one of the department’s field training officers. In 2012, he won the Governor’s Highway Safety Office DUI Officer of the Year award. He was also awarded the city’s Life Saving Award in 2013. He was recognized for superior performance in 2016 and 2018.

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