By RACHAEL LONG
Alderman Derek Adams fought for his proposed beer ordinance with everything he had, and then some. But it wasn’t enough to convince his colleagues to vote “yes” on Ordinance 19-04 at Thursday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
The ordinance, which marked Adams’ first proposal, sought a reduction of a restaurant’s required gross income from 65 percent food sales to 50 percent. It was defeated 4-1.
To outsiders looking in, the proposal may seem unmemorable, certainly not the topic of an hour-long heated discussion. But town leaders gave the idea, and its implications, serious thought.
Two members of the board were visibly against the proposal from its outset, Mayor Jimmy Alexander and long-time Alderman Larry Felts. Following an introduction of the ordinance for discussion by Adams, Alexander was quick to jump in.
The mayor said none of the restaurants in town had recently reported less than 90 percent food sales. Alexander also noted fears of people being over served and more frequent police calls which can associated with restaurants that serve a high percentage of alcohol.
“A lot of good reasons not to even…not to consider this as something we should do,” Alexander said. “I think the majority of the people would agree with me that we’re doing great as it is.”
If a majority agreed with Alexander’s sentiments, it did not show during the public comments period of the meeting when three individuals spoke for the approval Adams’ ordinance.
But Alderman Jason Patrick said that number was hardly representative of the community’s desires.
“We’re a town of 11,000 plus people, we had three people speak in favor of a change,” Patrick said. “…There are a number of other people who don’t necessarily feel as Derek does.”
Adams began his discussion by asking what purpose the number 65 percent served and posed the idea that it may exist to prevent a certain type of restaurant (like a dive bar) from coming to Nolensville.
Alderman Larry Felts said he was there when town leaders came up with the 65 percent figure.
“Nolensville incorporated to have its own character,” Felts said Thursday. “In all the years that I’ve sat up here, we’ve not had a single restaurant, we’ve not had a single person, I’ve gotten not a single email from anybody that says, ‘This stinks, we need to change it.’”
When later asked to respond to Adams’ idea that the town may be interested in preventing a certain type of restaurant to do business in Nolensville, Patrick was quick to object.
“I would completely disagree with that statement,” Patrick said. “I don’t think Nolensville has any interest nor have I ever known any board member to have an interest in dictating what type of restaurant wants to invest in our community.”
At the heart of Adams’ argument for the ordinance was the notion that restaurants may want to come to Nolensville but are dissuaded by the 65 percent requirement for food sales. Unfortunately for Adams’ position, the instance of restaurants deciding not to bring business to Nolensville is near impossible to prove.
And his colleagues did not fail to point it out.
Alexander said the city, to his knowledge, never gets calls from people inquiring about the beer ordinance.
“No one’s called. No one’s interested,” Alexander said.
Adams pointed out that changing the beer ordinance was one of the issues he ran on in the election which made him an alderman. He said he’s heard from “hundreds of people” interested in changing the beer ordinance.
“Well, it would’ve been nice if they’d have told some of us,” Felts countered.
At one point in the discussion, Alderman Tommy Dugger asked Adams to give an example of a business that chose not to open in Nolensville as a result of the town’s current beer ordinance.
What became his signature refrain for the evening, Adams responded, “You can’t prove a negative.”
But Adams’ colleagues seemed to think there wasn’t much he could prove.
Dugger said he was not opposed to change but said he didn’t think the change Adams’ proposed would make much of a difference.
Patrick, who served as a middle ground during the discussion, said he felt like the proposed change was trying to fix something that he said isn’t broken. After all, he pointed out, the town of Nolensville has no shortage of restaurants developing in the town.
“If I could be convinced that our 65 percent number was somehow an obstacle to bringing business to Nolensville, I think that’s something that could be debated,” Patrick said.
He questioned whether the town would actually want to be competitive for the type of business that “danced along that 50-50 line.”
In an attempt to exhaust all possible options, Patrick told Adams he thought a revised plan to change the ordinance with a different number of required food sales might have more luck in the future.
“If you seriously want to see this changed, 50 is not looking real good right now for you,” Patrick said to Adams. “What you might consider is circling back, and let’s see if we can find a consensus.”
Adams later said he expected the meeting’s outcome and was mostly grateful that the ordinance saw any discussion at all. And while his proposition was undeniably shut down, Adams said the discussion at Town Hall Thursday was just the beginning.
“The town has been kickstarted,” Adams said. “A lot of ‘new Nolensville’ is getting a lot more and more passionate about everything that’s going on.”