Albemarle City Council approves first downtown bar

Badin Brews received a special use permit in a 4-3 vote

Badin Brews owner Joshua Hicks speaks to the Albemarle City Council. (StanlyTV)

ALBEMARLE — A special use permit has been approved for an existing Albemarle establishment attempting to operate as a bar.

The Albemarle City Council voted 4-3 on March 18 to approve a permit for Badin Brews, making it the first business within downtown Albemarle’s Central Business District to be classified as a bar.

Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall and Councilmembers Dexter Townsend, Chris Whitley and Benton Dry voted for the permit’s approval, while Chris Bramlett, David Hunt and Bill Aldridge opposed it.

Back on Feb. 19, the council voted 4-3 — across the very same voting lines by member — to approve a text amendment to the city’s code of ordinances that would allow bars in downtown Albemarle under a special use permit with a 200-foot separation requirement.

The city previously only permitted full-service restaurants to sell liquor in its Central Business District while also prohibiting liquor sales at breweries and taprooms.

Before the council’s latest vote last week, Badin Brews owner Joshua Hicks provided the councilmembers his thoughts on the situation, stating he would be grateful and cautious if his business received the special use permit in question.

Last May, he lobbied for an ordinance to change the terminology of “profit clubs” to “bars.” However, the initial language did not contain the separation requirement that was later successfully added, and it failed to pass in a vote.

“I don’t really know what to say at this point other than I run a tight ship. I will not allow this to become a black eye on downtown,” Hicks said. “People know that I will ban them if they get out of line because that’s not what I want for this town. I want this to be a respectable establishment. I want the town to want it here. I want people to want to be at my business and feel safe in my business.”

Aldridge asked Hicks how he would handle a potential situation where a customer is overindulging in alcohol usage.

“Just like at any restaurant downtown, if they are noticeably drunk, we have the right to refuse them anything, and we do,” Hicks said. “We have had multiple people come in that have been drinking somewhere else, and we refuse to serve them because that falls on us as a liability. If we serve them, I have it on my cameras. If something happens to them, it can come back on me.”

Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael provided some history on how the current situation had evolved over the past 26 years.

“When we adopted the ABC laws and the mixed beverage laws back in 1998, there was no mention of bars in that language that was passed,” Michael said. “So when the state legislature changed the law and added bars to many of these categories, we had to bring our definitions into compliance with what the state requirement was for their state statute.”

Michael then indicated that he favored granting the special use permit on the basis of freedom and individuality for the establishment and clientele.

“As for myself, a lot of people think, ‘Wow, why would I vote for it since I don’t drink?’ but I would not put my preferences in front of anybody else,” he added. “They all have the chance to do what they wish to do. And I would hope I would make the right decisions. I mean, we can’t control what somebody does walking in and drinking.”

The next Albemarle City Council meeting is set for April 1 at the City Hall Council Chambers.