ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL)–Business owners in Erwin are re-evaluating planned investments after Mayor Glenn White proposed new regulations on the sale of alcohol last week.
Kevin Adkins, owner of Burnout BBQ and Grille, had plans to turn the food truck into a sports bar and restaurant. He bought a property on Main Street and secured a beer license in May of last year.
He told News Channel 11, if the Mayor’s proposal succeeds at the Board of Mayor and Alderman’s meeting Monday (Feb. 13), he’ll scrap his plans to open the restaurant.
“We have pretty much come up with the conclusion that we can’t invest $250,000 into something that we can only keep just for ourselves,” Adkins said.
The Mayor’s proposed ordinance would prohibit the sale of alcohol within 400 feet of any school or church, twice the current radius of 200 feet.
Adkin’s location is 340 feet from a church. He said the city had assured him his current permit won’t be affected.
“The problem is that beer license is not transferrable,” Adkins said. “If we sell it or if we fall ill, and the business has to close for six months, or, unfortunately, if we pass away and die and it’s inherited by our children, then they can’t operate the business as what it has always been.”
Adkins isn’t the only business owner putting his plans on hold.
Robert Fury purchased downtown Erwin’s Capitol theaters in 2020 with hopes of turning it into a live music venue downstairs and an Airbnb upstairs.
Now he says, the investment needed for renovations isn’t worth the risk.
“My wife and I have worked for 50 years and save money,” Fury said. “We want to put it into this building. But it’s already a big enough risk. When you add a changing regulatory environment, it makes it a bigger risk.”
Fury said he’s also frustrated with the lack of information provided by business owners about whether they’ll be affected by the larger radius around churches and schools.
“It might affect 100 buildings, it might affect 30 or 40 buildings,” Fury said. The mayor also proposed a limit of 12 permits for stores that sell alcohol.
The city already has 15 existing licenses–which means any new businesses won’t be eligible.
Economic Development Director Austin Finch says it could have an impact on convenience stores.
“Some of the big ones located in the state, they wanted to locate here, they’re also going to require an offsite permit,” Finch said. “If we don’t allow that, you know, why not locate somewhere else, a Carter County, who will allow it?”
The BMA will vote on the Mayor’s proposal at their next meeting. They will have to approve the measure twice before it becomes effective.