Published: Sep 18, 2012 12:00 AM
Modified: Sep 18, 2012 11:40 AM
CARRBORO - A Sept. 5 wine tasting at Johnny’s Gone Fishing has prompted Carrboro to reexamine its rules on drinking alcohol in retail stores.
Resident John Montavon asked town planning officials this month to end the wine tastings at Johnny’s. at 901 W. Main St., a residentially zoned area.
Restaurants and bars are prohibited in residential zoning areas, said Carrboro Planning Director Trish McGuire.
Since Johnny’s predates the residential zoning change, she said the business is allowed to operate as a local grocery store, which the town defines as a “legally non-conforming retail use.”
In an email to the town, Montavon said the wine tastings increase Johnny’s “non-conforming use” as a retail store in a residential area and should not continue.
“This is a grandfathered business smack in the middle of a residential community,” he said. “You can’t expand an activity that is going to disturb that neighborhood.”
McGuire said the planning staff is discussing whether the wine tastings increase the “non-conforming use.” The town does not regulate alcohol consumption in retail stores, she said, but that could change.
“It may be appropriate to regulate wine tasting,” she said. “Generally speaking, wine tastings are controlled by the N.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Commission and the town didn’t play a role in approving (wine tasting) at this location.”
But Meghan Truesdell, Johnny’s co-manager, said the business has a state license for wine tastings and a permit to sell wine and beer onsite.
She said the new Johnny’s is trying to respond to the needs of the community.
“We want to be the tiny little Weaver Street Market on this side of town,” Truesdell said.
Johnny’s first opened as a local grocery store named Bill & Tillman’s. It later became Johnny’s Sporting Goods, a bait and tackle shop owned by Johnny Howard.
The property was purchased by Brian Plaster and Jan Halle in 2007, but closed June 2011 when the owners parted ways.
When the business opened under Plaster and Halle, some Carrboro residents had problems with the store’s alcohol sales, loud music and increased traffic that congested small streets.
“Several neighbors of the site have been in communication regularly with (planner) Marty (Roupe) about their concerns and complaints,” McGuire said.
Johnny’s new management team applied for a rezoning request and a Conditional Use Permit request that would allow outside gatherings with music and onsite drinking.
The rezoning application is still under rounds of review by town staff and has not reached a vote by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
“We would love to get rezoned, but we are trying to make it a viable business as it is,” Truesdell said.