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Mebane votes one-year trial run for downtown social drinking district, 4-1


Mebane’s city council agreed this week to a one year trial for a social drinking district downtown.  In doing so, the council also agreed to add an additional block to the area for the district in order to allow one shared retail space with about a half-dozen merchants, the Little Shops of Mebane at 301 North Third Street, to be included.

The vote was 4-1 with Montrena Hadley voting against.  Hadley had suggested the possibility of having an event-specific approach to the social drinking district, much like recently adopted in Gibsonville.

Mebane city council member Montrena Hadley

But when she raised the issue, she got no interest from other council members.  Hadley said in an interview after the meeting that she is particularly concerned about the open-ended nature of the drinking district especially during some of the city’s largest events such as the annual Mebane Dogwood Festival and the Christmas Parade.  She said she felt the city could “enforce or patrol it better” if it were event-based.

See related story on Erin Nettles’ comments about changes she said are coming soon to Burlington’s social district:

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Several public speakers during the public hearing urged the inclusion of the Little Shops stores.

But Mebane police chief Mitch McKinney said that discussions about the idea had concluded that the city should “see how this goes now” with the option to incorporate additional businesses at some point in the future.

Mebane police chief Mitch McKinney

McKinney said there was residential in the area, but the owner of a nearby apartment building, Will King, who also owns the building where the Little Shops are located, spoke in favor of adding the retail stores to the district, saying it would “promote business.”

Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. questioned whether the city council could approve a social district broader than what had been advertised, but city attorney Lawson Brown said it could enlarge it to include another half-block.

The council also heard from several downtown bar owners and one retail store owner who supported the concept, as well as one couple who were strongly opposed.

[Story continues below photos of supporters of establishing the new social drinking district in downtown Mebane.]


Patrick Roady of Crafted the Art of the Taco in downtown Mebane
Wendy Day of Clay Street Tavern
Peggy Rice of Elegant Relic

Speaking in favor were: Wendy Day of Clay Street Tavern, Megan Wagner of Go Girl Shoppe, Patrick Roady of Crafted, and Tory Williams of Bright Penny Brewing, all ABC permittees that are included in the drinking district. They generally pointed to the need “not to be left behind” when other cities and towns are establishing social drinking districts.

James and Amy Papaneri outlined what they considered to be some of the distinctions in Mebane that made downtown Mebane a poor choice for a social district.
They noted that other nearby cities’ social drinking districts are not close to schools and parks, while Mebane’s would be. “It will not improve our already thriving town,” James said.

[Story continues below photos of opponents James and Amy Papaneri.]

James Papaneri
Amy Papaneri

Amy said additional alcohol access and visibility in the downtown area would not be “positively charming,” a play on the city’s motto.

She noted that the size of drinks, 16 ounces, is above the recommended size for women, based on national health agencies.

“Downtown Mebane is not suited for a social drinking district,” Amy said. She highlighted the possible abuse of alcohol, which is already one of the nation’s greatest health risks, and would not be  conducive to the city’s health and wellbeing, she said.

Councilman Jonathan White suggested that the city make its adoption contingent on a one-year trial basis because of potential “unintended consequences.”

Mebane city councilmen Jonathan White and Sean Ewing.

Councilman Sean Ewing proposed to implement the social district Thursdays through Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and to expand the proposed district to the Little Shops front door, effective June 28, and modified his motion to include the one-year limitation that White had suggested.

The vote was 4-1, with council members Ewing, White, Tim Bradley, and Katie Burkholder in favor, with Hadley opposed.

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