elkintribune.com

Town ushers in sidewalk dining with booze

By Anthony Gonzalez agonzalez@civitasmedia.com

May 14, 2014

At its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, the Elkin Board of Commissioners paved the way for restaurant owners to offer sidewalk cafe-styled dining to include the sale of alcohol.


Typically, a sidewalk cafe allows for tables and chairs for outside dining. Sometimes the tables are permanently outside, however they are often taken inside on closing time, or earlier if it gets colder. Usually there are parasols depending on the style of the sidewalk cafe. Awnings are popular for sidewalk cafes to prevent diners from inclement weather. There may be a low fence around the sidewalk cafe for the purpose of space separation and decoration, usually when the consumption of alcohol is permitted.


Restaurant owners from the downtown section of Elkin filled Town Hall and took to the microphone to endorse allowing sidewalk cafes. Ordinance changes to allow exterior dining and for the optional sale of alcohol had to be approved by Elkin’s Board of Commissioners.


During the meeting, a discussion transpired by restaurant owners who successfully convinced commissioners to can an anti-bottle requirement that would’ve prohibited glass bottles from being served outside the restaurant, but within the sidewalk cafe’s required barricade.


Chef Jeff Gibbs of Twenty One & Main told commissioners that he was sympathetic toward the recommendations to prevent glass bottles outside the restaurant, but expressed much of the concern was an unnecessary overreaction.


“I have been here for six years and I’ve never had an incident on my patio,” said Gibbs. “People are dining. They’re spending money…Let’s make this town a destination for dining.”


Gibbs also reminded commissioners that they can easily pull the permit or deny future applications if it deems an eatery is not in compliance with adopted rules.


“Why should we prevent bottles outside? We’re in wine country. What if someone wants a bottle of wine for dinner?” added Jack Mantero of Fiddles Pub.


Commissioner Skip Whitman sided with eatery owners suggesting a requirement to prohibit glass bottles and place items such as beer in unidentified plastic cups is only designed to mask the transparency of what’s being consumed.


“We can go overboard in making this not look like what it is,” said Whitman. “People are allowed to consume alcohol. They shouldn’t be treated differently.”


Factoring in sidewalk space

According to the ordinance, restaurant owners would be eligible to consume the entire sidewalk with the exception of a three-foot pedestrian walkway from the edge of the sidewalk.


Commissioner Bob Norton expressed concern for pedestrians traveling along the sidewalks who would see less space. “My concern is that the space seems so narrow,” said Norton.


Other commissioners and Elkin’s town attorney said the requirements are for the sidewalk to remain in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.


No member of the public spoke in objection to the ordinance changes. The Main Street Advisory Board members who were present at the meeting sided with restaurant owners.


There was no discussion on seating, table, or exterior occupancy limits within the exterior barricades.


The ordinance changes passed unanimously.


An application of $25 is required for a sidewalk cafe permit. Commissioners said that no smoking will be permitted in any sidewalk cafe. Businesses selling alcohol must receive proper documentation meeting ABC regulations. The ordinance changes are effective throughout the entire town of Elkin and are not limited to Elkin’s downtown corridor.


Commissioner Terry Kennedy said, “This is another piece of the puzzle for making the town improve.”


According to Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens, the meeting was the highest attended Town Hall meeting in recent years.


“We need more of this attendance,” expressed a pleased Hutchens.


Rezoning approved

A public hearing was held pertaining to the rezoning of a 0.417-acre lot zoned residential on the west side of Maple Street. The property has no address, but it will be in the 1300 block section of that street. The property previously was zoned as B-20, but has changed to B-12, which places stricter requirements to be approved by the town on businesses or activities within such neighborhood. The stricter requirements were made at the request of the property owner, according to officials. Commissioners passed the resolution unanimously.


EVTA update

Elkin Valley Trails Association Chairman Dr. Bill Blackley updated town officials on progress relating to the EVTA footbridge being installed above the Shoe Factory Dam. According to Blackley, the bridge is expected to be turned over to the town on Friday. Blackley expressed extreme caution on attempting to view the footbridge prior to Friday. Construction debris could pose risk of injury to the public. “We need people to stay away until it’s completed and cleaned up,” said Blackley.


Blackley announced that Weyerhaeuser gave EVTA a one-mile easement along its property for trail access.


Foothills Arts Council

The executive director for the Foothills Arts Council, Leighanne Wright, presented commissioners with a slide show showcasing activities sponsored by the organization and submitted a request for $12,500 in special appropriation funding. No action was taken by the commissioners. Upon conclusion of the presentation, Hutchens said all budget requests will be finalized at its next budget workshop to be held at Town Hall on May 22.


Commissioner excused absence

Commissioner J.L. Lowe Jr. was not present for the meeting. His excused absence was approved by commissioners. Lowe is recovering from a surgical procedure, according to Hutchens.


Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or follow on Twitter @newsgonz.