BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 18, 2015 issue

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of a beer ordinance amendment that, if approved on the final reading, will allow customers to sample draft craft beers before purchasing from a convenience store or market.

The ordinance, Town Administrator Bob Browning said, will allow anyone selling draft craft beers the opportunity to obtain a permit.

The ordinance requires a $100 nonrefundable application fee for the off-premise retail sale beer permit, as well as an annual privilege tax of $100 to renew the permit.

According to the ordinance, the samples can be no more than 2 ounces in no more than a 5-ounce cup.

Only three 2-ounce samples can be provided during a 24-hour period from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The ordinance also states that every customer will have to provide a photo ID to ensure he or she is 21 years old.

The customer’s name, according to the ID, will then be entered into a sampling log that will show the day and time the sample was provided to that person.

All samples are to be consumed on premise and the server providing the samples must have an Alcoholic Beverage Commission server’s license.

The ordinance also states that the Jonesborough Police Department will review the sampling procedure before the convenience store or market begins offering samples.

Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said a few changes needed to be made before the second reading of the amendment.

He said the term “craft beer” needs to be defined, as well as “convenience store” and “market.”

Wheeler said the ordinance also needs to make clear that only three 2-ounce samples can be given to an individual within a 24-hour period.

He also said it must clearly state that it is mandatory that an ABC server must serve all the samples.

“We need to remember that any time we change a beer ordinance, we are asking our police department to enforce that,” Wheeler said.

“So, it has to be very specific and can’t leave it open to subject to interpretation.”

Mayor Kelly Wolfe said an amendment to the beer ordinance is under consideration because of a request that was brought forth by Roadrunner Markets.

“They have inside this structure a Chuggernaut where you can actually buy craft beers in a growler,” he said.

Growlers are large glass jugs traditionally used to transport beer.

“Quite honestly, I can see the value of that because it is hard to say I like something and why spend the money on it if you don’t know how it tastes and you never had it before,” Wolfe said.

Although the first reading passed with a 3-1 vote during the Monday, Feb. 9, meeting, areas of concern were voiced by the aldermen.

“I’ve been giving some thought about this,” Alderman Adam Dickson said.

“I think I feel fairly confident about my decision. I choose to vote against this.”

He said he has the utmost respect for Ryan Broyles, president and CEO of Mountain Empire Oil Company.

“I hope that my vote won’t be taken out of context,” Dickson said. “I really have some concerns in particular about the fact that this is a place where I frequent fairly regularly at the Roadrunner and I do see a lot of children coming in and out. I value the feelings of our chief and I know that the staff at Mountain Empire Oil and the Roadrunner store will do an excellent job and will abide by the rules. I just have some personal concerns.”

Wolfe told Dickson he understood where he was coming from, but right now Jonesborough’s liquor stores have the options of doing tastings.

“We have Depot Street Brewery (who) obviously has a license as a manufacturer in town and a license to allow them to have samples there. Currently, beer is sold in every convenience store just about in Jonesborough, if not all of them. Really, the only difference would be that sampling option,” Wolfe said. “Right now that beer at the Chuggernaut is on tap. They are actively filling those growlers right there. I have purchased a couple of them. It is a nice option and it is a matter of personal preference.”

He said if there is abuse, there are ramifications.

“I think we have a track record of mixed drinks being served in town now very successfully,” Wolfe said. “You are seeing people in Jonesborough take time in doing it right.”

Operations Manager Craig Ford said he can talk with the City of Greeneville’s Police Department and see if they have had any issues with beer samples since implementing their ordinance.

Browning said any of the restaurants that have liquor by the drink can provide samples to their customers if they choose. He said when Tennessee Hills Distillery becomes operational, you can have a family in there and have tastings.

“There is not an age limit to go into the distillery,” Browning said.

Alderman Terry Countermine said although he is a beer drinker, he is a little concerned about drawing 2 ounces of draft beer.

“The idea is that I am drinking it there to decide if I want to buy,” he asked. “I have concerns about the abuse of that.”

Wolfe said the idea is that an individual would be trying three different samples, rather than three of the same.

“One drink you should be able to say I like that one or not,” he said.

Discussion was also had about what the blood alcohol concentration would be after consumption.

Police Chief Matt Hawkins said although many factors, such as muscle mass and body weight, can sway the number drastically in either way, generally the blood alcohol level is at .05 after two 12-ounce beers.


Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

 This is my big article for this week’s Herald & Tribune. Tonight I am covering the Jonesborough Planning Commission meeting to see what unfolds for this craft distilling company.

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

Published in Jan. 21, 2014 Herald & Tribune

If all goes according to plan, a craft distilling company may come to downtown Jonesborough later this year.

Stephen Callahan, 26, a native of Jonesborough and a David Crockett High School graduate, is looking into opening a craft distillery as one of his business opportunities in Jonesborough.  It would call the Salt House off Fox Street home.

A graduate of Emory and Henry College, Callahan now works at Eastman Chemical Co.

“Jonesborough is home to me and I feel like it deserves to have a good business that could offer a lot to Jonesborough, and have a lot to offer to us, too,” he said.

Callahan is looking into the distillery business because making whiskey has a deep heritage in the Appalachian Mountains.

“It fits what I do well. I am a chemistry geek,” he said. “It’s something I feel that I am good at.”

Callahan said with the craft distillery business booming across the nation, he thought it would be a unique opportunity for Jonesborough.

“We are really excited to work with the Town of Jonesborough to get this thing off the ground,” Callahan said.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe agreed that it has become quite clear that craft brewing and craft distilling are popular around the country.

“We were approached by this young man about him starting a craft distillery here in Jonesborough and have spent quite a bit of time discussing the subject with him,” Wolfe said.

“For a town dependent upon the tourist trade, this represents an excellent opportunity to add yet another attraction to draw folks to town.”

Wolfe said with much already being done with the Depot Street Brewery operation, they hope to create an overlay zone that will allow this business and others to choose to come to Jonesborough.

“He is proposing to locate the business in a historic building with a whole lot of character on its own, the Salt House, and from what I understand, is going to invest a considerable amount of money to make the craft distillery educational and technologically advanced,” Wolfe said. “This would certainly be unique to the area.”

Before Callahan can obtain federal and state permits for a craft distillery business, he must receive approval to open a facility in Jonesborough.

The Jonesborough Planning Commission will have a meeting Jan. 21 to establish an ordinance creating a distilling company overlay zone.

According to the Town of Jonesborough, the Tennessee Code allows the manufacturing of intoxicating liquors in municipalities with approval for retail liquor stores and liquor-by-the drink by referendum. Liquor manufacturers must be permitted by the federal government and must have a Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission license.

Samples of the distilled product on premise without cost to individuals of legal drinking age can be served by the manufacturer, as long as it is provided on location within the premise permitted by the federal law. Retail can also be sold on premise if the manufacturer meets the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission criteria for sales through a wholesaler.

If the overlay zone ordinance is approved, the commission will recommend it to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The ordinance will have to be approved through two readings by the BMA, including a public hearing. If the ordinance is adopted, Callahan will have to submit an application and site plan for the Planning Commission to approve.

If all goes well, Callahan hopes to have the business open later this year with his partner Logan Wise, his roommate in college who live in Knoxville but hopes to settle in Jonesborough.

“He went the business route and I went the chemistry route,” Callahan said.