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.


‘An authentic Tennessee moonshine distillery’

This article has been an ongoing topic I have been covering for the last month or so for the Herald & Tribune. A young Jonesborough resident is slowly clearing hurdle after hurdle to put a craft distillery in downtown Jonesborough, Tenn.

For my past articles click on the links below:

Distillery coming to Jonesborough:

Proposed distillery gets planning OK:

With one ‘no’ vote cast . . .

Future downtown distillery clears next hurdle

Published in Feb. 18, 2014 Herald & Tribune

Stephen Callahan, who hopes to open a distillery in downtown Jonesborough later this year, received nearly the full support of the Board of Mayor and Alderman during an ordinances first reading last week – minus one vote.

Alderman Homer G’Fellers voted against the ordinance, he said, because of his personal beliefs.

“I have never voted for any type of alcohol in the town of Jonesborough,” he said.

G’Fellers said he believes a small quaint town like Jonesborough does not need a distillery business.  That belief, he said has nothing to do with the distillery itself or Callahan.

“We are really excited that we got the blessing of the Mayor and the Alderman’s,” Callahan said the next day. “We are really happy with last night’s outcome. That is a big victory and it makes me feel a lot better personally to know the mayor and alderman have supported this.”

The board’s approval, Callahan said, reassured him and his supporters that they are doing something possible and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in regards to opening a distillery in town.

The BMA approved an ordinance that creates a Distilling Company Overlay Zone, as well as an amendment for the Jonesborough Zoning map. The map provides Callahan with the opportunity to submit a site plan when applying for state and federal permits.

Although the state allows for the manufacturing of wine or liquor, the town determines where a distillery can be located within town limits. An overlay zone is established for appropriate locations by the town for retail liquor stores.

“This is not about a specific venue yet,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “It’s about a zone to allow the venue to exist.”

Callahan has been working with Doug Lowrie, the owner of the Salt House, for the craft distillery business location.

“It will allow Doug and I to continue to finalize the formal lease agreements,” he said of the board’s decision. “It gives me a piece of mind knowing that Jonesborough is going to support us.”

According to the Town of Jonesborough, the intent of the Distilling Overlay District is to “provide suitable locations for the possible operation of a distilling company meeting all state and federal requirements that legally manufactures and sells intoxicating liquors within the corporate limits of the Town of Jonesborough.” The purpose. according to town documents, is to enhance the local economy, while increasing the town’s potential, all while ensuring the safety and welfare of visitors and residents.

A distilling company can be located in the overlay zone if the manufacturing building is 500 feet away from an active church or school or 150 feet away if located in a central business district.

In order to be located in the overlay zone, a submitted site plan including the availability of parking; adequate pedestrian access; schematic of the building; an odor control plan and a business plan must be submitted to the Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission for approval.

Approval is also required from the Historic Zoning Commission, if the building is located in the historic district, for exterior building improvements and signage. Before a regular certificate of occupancy is issued, a landscape plan must be submitted to the Tree and Townscape Board.

The Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission will also review and approve the site plan and use of the property.

Alderman Chuck Vest said a distillery is a good opportunity for downtown, possibly establishing something to grow with years to come.

Callahan said he now has the business license and is starting to pursue the legal paperwork as far as bonds and permits from the federal and state government. He said as soon as he obtains the federal permits, the ball will really start rolling for the business.

“It’s becoming more of a reality every day,” he said about his dream of creating an authentic Tennessee moonshine distillery.

Callahan said within the next month he hopes to start ordering equipment for the distillery.

“This is my hometown,” he said of Jonesborough. “I feel really honored to bring a unique business to my hometown.”

His hope is to put the best legally made Tennessee moonshine on liquor store shelves across America.

“We are going to be a professional business and operate in a professional manner in respect to the town,” Callahan said. “We are trying to bring a quality, sophisticated distillery into the town of Jonesborough. We are hard working people taking a leap of faith and hopefully have something to be proud of.”

The ordinance will become affective after the passage of the second and final reading takes place.

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.

‘A substantial increase in safety’

Here is another article that was published in this week’s Herald & Tribune, a weekly newspaper I contribute to in the Town of Jonesborough, TN. The renewal of traffic cameras was an agenda item during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen January meeting. Many residents who attended the meeting spoke in favor of the cameras. It was an interesting article to write.

Article published in the Dec. 17, 2013 Herald & Tribune

Town approves traffic cameras for five more years

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved the renewal of a five-year agreement with Redflex Travel Systems, the company that operates Jonesborough’s traffic camera enforcement system.

“The result, what we feel like, has been a substantial increase in safety,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning of the decision reached during the board’s monthly meeting on Dec. 9.

The system was installed five years ago and, according to information supplied by Browning, the number of accidents has decreased since the cameras’ installation. While accidents throughout town have grown by 19.3 percent since 2008, the three signaled intersections with cameras have only seen an increase of 2.1 percent in accident rates during the same period.

The cameras were installed with photo enforcement signs at the intersections of Boone Street and 11E, Forest Drive and 11E, and Headtown Road and 11E. They will remain at those locations.

The renewal period will commence on Jan. 1, 2014, and run until Dec. 31, 2018. The town has the option of extending their renewal term for up to two additional consecutive and automatic three-year time periods following the 2018 expiration date.

At the meeting, many citizens spoke in favor of renewing the system, saying it left them feeling safer with the cameras intact.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe also commented. “The popularity of a camera system depends on where you live,” Wolfe said. “Folks who live outside of the town really don’t like the cameras.”

Browning said town staff looked at Jonesborough traffic flows during a transportation study five years ago. They reviewed where people were coming from and the volume of traffic through the town. From that study, the Tennessee Department of Transportation recommended the town review signal intersections for a traffic safety study.

It was during that time period that town officials began talking about traffic cameras because they found that in other locations, the installation appeared to decrease the number of accidents.

About 3,200 vehicles travel Boone Street and 11E each day through Jonesborough, Browning said, and that’s a tremendous amount of traffic.

“Anything we could do to reduce accidents and speeds was something that we felt like we needed to look at,” he said.

Browning attributes the increase of safety in the three intersections to citations given for speeding and running red lights.

If a motorist goes through one of the intersections with cameras installed at 56 mph or more, he or she receives a citation, he said.

Officers have also indicated that they can see people going closer to the speed limit while traveling through the photo-enforced intersections. The Redflex system has shown that 90 percent of people going through the intersections from Boone Street to Headtown Road are either going above the speed limit by 5 mph or less than the speed limit, Browning added.

“That’s a really good situation as far as safety is concerned,” he said.

A citation is issued if both sets of wheels of the vehicle are not behind the stop bar when the traffic light turns red and the motorist continues through the intersection.

To help prevent this from occurring, the yellow caution light is set at five seconds, the maximum length of time according to state law, providing motorist traveling at 45 mph with more than 300 feet to stop at the light.

“We felt that was important that we were providing everyone the opportunity to abide by traffic regulations,” Browning said.

While town officials maintain the camera system has shown to be highly accurate, Browning said if there is a discrepancy in terms of being able to see the license plate number or what happened in the intersection, the town errs on the driver’s side.

“The Town of Jonesborough ultimately determines if a citation is issued or not,” Browning explained. “Someone at the sergeant level or above reviews the videos and the potential citations.”

Wolfe encourages folks to be safe, smart and to slow down while driving and take a deep breath.

“Don’t endanger your life and those around you in the Town of Jonesborough,” he said.

‘Win-Win Partnership’

I began covering the monthly Mayor and Aldermen board meetings for the town of Jonesborough recently as one of my beats for the Herald & Tribune. The farmers market, which was on the agenda for the two meetings I had to cover, was approved this past week. I’m excited to visit it once it’s up and going.

Article published in the Dec. 17, 2013 issue of the Herald & Tribune

Lease paves way for Boone Street Market

The Town of Jonesborough and the Jonesborough Farmers Market was approved during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting last week, paving the way for the opening of the Boone Street Market sometime next year.

“If you are talking about a win-win partnership, this is your prototype,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said.

He said the market needs a little help, and the town has the perfect space for it.

“I predict this Farmers Market to do really, really well with this location,” Wolfe said.

The lease agreement was made for a location on Boone Street once used as an Exxon gas station. The lease will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and will terminate on Jan. 31, 2017.

“The individuals involved in the Farmers Market are very passionate about their pursuit, and that is one of the key ingredients for any successful venture in Jonesborough,” Wolfe said. “This space is the logical choice for a very successful Farmers Market operation.”

The market has agreed to pay $1 per year subject to meeting the following criteria: increase sales opportunities for local farmers; provide farmers the use of a commercial kitchen to make additional, salable products from their harvest; offer visitors and residents ready access to fresh, locally-produced food; and support the economic development of Jonesborough through a year-round, six-day-a-week business in downtown.

The agreement states that the Town of Jonesborough may review the financial records prior to the expiration of the lease to determine whether the market has the financial capacity to pay some reasonable amount of rent and, therefore, make an adjustment in the rent. That must be done in a 90-day written notice to the market.

During the first two years of the lease, the Town of Jonesborough will pay one-half of the utility payments for electrical, gas and water associated with the operation of the building. After that two-year period, the arrangement will be reviewed to determine if an adjustment needs to be made.

The Boone Street Market will offer produce, meats, eggs, cheese, dairy, pasta, baked goods, processed foods and ready to eat foods that are grown within 100 miles of Jonesborough.

The lease states the market will have a minimum schedule of operation from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Store Project Coordinator Karen Childress said she thinks the lease is great and a generous offer. She said she is incredibly thankful for the support the town is putting behind the market to make it work.

“We have been working on this for months now,” Childress said. “This is the end of a long process. There were no surprises.”

The plaza the market will occupy, she said, is a beautiful public space, and the location is both visible and inviting to the public.

With the lease in place, funding is being sought in order to renovate the building, which is estimated to cost roughly $142,000.

The first donation of $3,500 has been offered by Farm Credit Services, and will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“It’s really exciting that Farm Credit Services is interested in this project,” Childress said. “They stepped up to get the ball rolling.”

The Town of Jonesborough will keep track of all donations and contributions for the market, which will be tax-deductible.

Town Administrator Bob Browning is working closely with Childress on generating some funding through grants.

“We think it’s a really good thing,” he said of the market. “It provides an opportunity for those sales to go on at least six days a week.”

Browning also said the agreement has ramifications for healthy eating for area residents and the ability to support those who are trying to generate income from growing quality produce locally.

“The (Farmers Market) board has really top-notch people, and the business plan is well thought out,” Browning said. “They spent time doing research and making good decisions. We are impressed.”

Browning went on to say he has every reason to think the outlet store will be successful.