Saturday, May 18, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Elon well on the way to becoming Pottersville

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We don’t really know why Elon’s town council is so enamored with outdoor sidewalk drinking, but it seems they just can’t get enough of it – in their town.

Which, as everyone surely remembers, is a college town, home to Elon University.

Inasmuch as about half or more of its 6,000+ students aren’t even old enough to drink (at least not legally), we find it all the more incomprehensible that so much effort would be made by the town’s government to make consuming alcoholic beverages (specifically beer and wine) more easy and widespread – even if euphemistically  referred to as “social drinking.”

The latest example of this infatuation is the town’s plan to make special provisions to allow a Gibsonville brewery to rent space for a so-called “beer garden” on town property, where it could offer its home-brewed beverages.

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That town property is actually a park area.

What?

We certainly question whether it is even legal, or constitutional, much less wise, for the town to “rent out” space for what amounts to a glorified bar.

Has anyone even considered the potential liability to the town and its taxpayers?

The proposal, at least so far, is to allow the beer joint  to operate four days a week (Thursday through Sunday) on a two-month trial basis.  Elon has “social drinking” hours every day, seven days a week between 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

While Burlington also recently established a social drinking district, it at least limited its operations to two days a week (Friday and Saturday).  In Elon, it’s bottoms-up all week long.

The Gibsonville brewery is tentatively scheduled to sell beer from  4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday.

What is even more incredible with this expansion of the “social drinking district” is the extent to which the town intends to subsidize the Gibsonville bar’s operations.

“The town will provide picnic tables, power, lighting, and flowerpots for the trial [period],” the town’s downtown development director Jill Weston told the town council last week, “and if the beer garden is successful, I would come back to you with a landscape design for something a little more permanent.”

(We also wonder how “successful” will be defined – and how much more that will cost Elon’s taxpayers.)

Frankly, if this is the best the town can come up with for its so-called “downtown developer,” we’re not sure her position is one worth having taxpayers continue to pay for.

Weston also told the council that the town would foot the bill for a porta-potty for the beer garden’s patrons, while the management and upkeep of the beer garden would be the responsibility of the Gibsonville-based microbrewery.

Oh good, we’re glad they at least have to do something at their own expense, since the town seems so willing to finance other aspects of its operations.

The way Elon’s town government has been applauding this effort, we’re only surprised by their restraint not to have town employees serving the beer.

Somehow, this beer-and-wine-fest in Elon reminds us, in a bad way, of a scene in the mythical town of Pottersville in Frank Capra’s Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the midst of a bad dream of what the world would be like if he hadn’t lived, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) runs through the streets of what had been his hometown of Bedford Falls.

He discovers that the town is now disproportionately filled with bars, nightclubs, dance halls, and pool halls, based on the low morals of the film’s villain, Mr. (Henry) Potter, who tries to run everything and everybody in the small town.

We can’t help but wonder what the founders of Elon University, and many of the town’s current residents, must think when they see the current town council’s obsession with providing more and more open-air drinking along the public sidewalks in downtown Elon.

In the movie, the character wakes up from his bad dream. But, so far, Elon residents are still living in it.

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