Dunn City Council Approves Compromise On Alcohol

Special limitations led to a solution for Downtown Dunn

The issue of whether or not to permit alcohol on public grounds in downtown Dunn left people polarized on the dangers of spirits and the need to attract more people to the city. But a compromise on special limitations led to an agreement inside Dunn City Council Chambers Tuesday night.

Councilman Billy Tart said he was personally against allowing alcohol sales at downtown events, but the option before the board Tuesday was better than the original idea.

Chuck Meade addresses the Dunn City Council during a public hearing Tuesday night on alcohol sales at events in downtown Dunn.

“When this first came to us,” Tart said, it was proposed to make alcohol “available anywhere on the public right-of-way, meaning streets, public parks or anything.”

But Tuesday’s ordinance amendment allowed the “sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the public right-of-ways [sic] for special events, under controlled conditions that require a permit.” The permits would only be issued for special events within the downtown municipal district from Elm Avenue to Layton Avenue and from Divine Street to Harnett Street.

Vendors, who wish to sell alcohol during a special event, will have to submit a permit; pay a hundred dollar fee; obtain a million dollar liability insurance policy for each event, letting the city piggyback on their coverage; have all required ABC permits; limit service of alcohol to a specified area; and agree to provide and pay for necessary security measures as determined by the city manager and chief of police.

“I still have feelings of reservation about it, but I did say that if we could keep it downtown that I would be more in favor of it,” Tart said.

The amendment passed unanimously.

But getting to the vote wasn’t easy.

The original idea was to permit alcohol sales and consumption on public streets and parks. A few meetings and several discussions and emails later, a decision to narrow the scope of that permission came into focus. Central Baptist Church Pastor Tom Wagoner said he appreciated the fact that the new ordinance limits the area where this would be permitted, but “when you give the devil an inch…”

“I’ve seen firsthand as a minister in this community the devastation that alcohol can bring on many lives, young and old,” Wagoner told the city council. “The concern is that the more availability for those who consume it in moderation, there will be more abuse as well.”

He wasn’t the only one with reservations.

“Having open access to alcohol and that being present [at public events] would turn off my family and probably many more young families like that,” said Chuck Meade, a self-proclaimed millennial with a wife and new baby at home. “There’s value in Dunn that’s not as common in other parts of our country and that’s what I think makes Dunn special. Some may call us outdated and antique and old-school, but there’s some things even young people like about that.”

The business community offered other opinions.

“This is pro-business and we’re very supportive of that,” said Matthew Smith, the finance committee chair of the Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s been a 15-year journey to get our beautiful downtown to this point,” Dal Snipes, the chair of Downtown Dunn Development Corporation, said. “When we embarked on this project, we all agreed ‘build it and they will come’ and they are coming to shop, dine, enjoy our museum, the Stewart Theatre and its revitalization and everything we have to offer, but we now want them to come more often and we want more of them to come…”

“We need more people and we need people coming into downtown,” said Lynn Godwin, who operates RET House Interiors on East Broad Street.

Councilman J. Wesley Sills said some of his constituents expressed concerns over the idea, but he heard more in support of it than against it.

In a separate unanimous vote, the council also approved an amendment to allow regulated food trucks with permits in certain areas of the city.

-Dunn Daily Record