ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — After a failed permitting attempt and a town-wide conflict over where alcohol can be sold, Blue Ridge Paddling Company opened its taproom.
“We’re so excited that it’s finally here,” co-owner Mason Schmidt told News Channel 11.
The town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen denied the initial permit application by brothers and co-owners Mason and Brannon Schmidt in January against the advice of City Attorney Tom Seeley.
In the following weeks, town officials moved to limit the number of businesses that could sell alcohol to be consumed off-premise.
Schmidt said the conflict went beyond just securing the Blue Ridge Paddling’s beer permit.
“About halfway through we realize, okay, this is no longer about Blue Ridge Ppaddling,” said Schmidt. “It’s not about Blue Ridge Taphouse. It’s about our community…we wanted to show to other folks, to other businessmen and women around the county and around the region that hey, we can do business here.”
Tonight, the taproom was filled with supporters and community members. The event even served a dual purpose as a grand opening and fundraising for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.
“I’m very excited to see them open their doors and invest in our community,” Erwin Alderman Michael Baker told News Channel 11. “We couldn’t ask for better partners for our town and for our county and for the adventure tourism community as a whole.”
Baker was one of two aldermen to vote in favor of the business’ initial permit request. He was the only alderman to vote against capping the number of available permits in town.
Now that the dust has settled and the taproom is open, Schmidt says he’s looking forward to it becoming a community space.
“You can come and enjoy a beverage if you’d like,” said Schmidt. “If you don’t, that’s okay to still come on out. And it’s just a great community to be around.”