By SERINA MARSHALL
Accusations of discrimination were fired at the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman during their meeting Monday night, when an outdoor use permit from Tennessee Hills Distillery came before the board before the vote being postponed to a later date.
“I will question, if it’s a no vote, how and why, because I will fully believe we have then been discriminated against when other people have been given the same thing,” said Scott Andrew, owner and founder of The Rugged Entrepreneur, and business coach to distillery owner Stephen Callahan. “This isn’t a liquor by the drink application. It’s an application to have outdoor furniture, in an enclosed barrier at a business.”
Callahan recused himself from the vote but had trouble keeping out of the discussion as it progressed.
“What’s the difference between that and a brewery?“ Callahan demanded at one point when questions of alcohol usage arose.
Mayor Chuck Vest stressed that Jonesborough’s quality of life remains the focus.
“The big issue is the future of the Town of Jonesborough,” Vest said. “We have an atmosphere and historic past to protect.”
The subject of alcohol continued to be the main focus during the discussion of approving the application for the permit.
“I have seen people walking out of there, and I didn’t have a breathalyzer, but they were intoxicated,” Alderman Terry Countermine said. “It’s not a safe place at that road. I have had forty people tell me they have almost hit someone crossing that road (from the Parsons Table parking lot to the distillery).”
Vice-Mayor Adam Dickson was also concerned about the serving of alcohol at Tennessee Hills specifically. However, referring to the talk of other plans being looked at for the town by Andrew and his wife Daphne, was hopeful for the vision Andrew had for the future of Jonesborough.
“It is my hope, you won’t give up on Jonesborough. My sincere hope is that we can continue to move forward. My sincere hope is the vision you have for Tennessee Hills will continue to prosper and grow. My sincere hope is that Jessica (Callahan) and Stephen will continue to grow and thrive under your tutelage,” Dickson said. “I just don’t believe this is in the best interest for Tennessee’s oldest town.”
Countermine also pointed out that “the other businesses in question that had received their permits were restaurants, not bars.”
Andrew pushed back saying that there would be a food truck outside the distillery that would provide the food component.
“One concern of mine has always been, we wish we had a food component there with what we’re doing,” Vest said. “And there is a food component vision there with Tennessee Hills which will help complement and I think will help some of the issues dissipate.”
Alderman Virginia Causey suggested in a motion to approve the permit that equal application should be taken into account.
“This is not a win-win situation. If we approve this request, we’re going to have people upset. If we do not approve this request, I know we are going to have people upset. The complaints about loud music and people being on the sidewalk have been taken care of,” Causey said. “We should give equal application for the request. This would give the town more leverage to enforce the law. We should take equal application and treat all business owners with the same consideration. We have already approved several downtown and there is no reason not to approve this one. I make a motion to approve the outdoor use permit, subject to the town attorney’s review and acceptance of proof of insurance form for six months and at this time be reevaluated.”
Vest agreed with Causey and felt this was a step forward.
“I don’t see why we don’t take that option of the six months. If things aren’t progressing as we desire, then we have the option to do something different in the future, just like for any business,” Vest said. “But there’s leverage with those six months and I think we would be making a great mistake if we don’t take advantage of Alderman Causey’s motion. I think a no vote here is not looking to the future. I think we have to have faith that the vision of this development will be keeping with our quality of life.”