Published: Sep 29, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 28, 2012 04:40 PM
The chancellor of the university resigns, and we receive a tiny smattering of letters to the editor. A controversial development is approved after five long years, and we hear nary a peep (although, really, after five years of debate about Charterwood, what’s left to say?).
But when we report that a small Carrboro business is threatened with having its wine tastings shut down, boy, do the floodgates open.
Several residents who lives near Johnny’s, a small neighborhood grocery and coffee shop on West Main Street, complained to the town after a wine tasting was held there on Sept. 5. They argued that the event constituted an expansion of the activity Johnny’s is allowed to engage in and he asked the town to forbid future wine tastings.
The town doesn’t normally regulate those. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission does that, and Johnny’s has the necessary licenses to hold wine tastings and sell beer and wine. For the time being, though, the ABC Commission has suspended the wine-tasting license in response to the complaints.
Johnny’s is in a residential district, but because it predates the town’s zoning regulations it is allowed to continue to operate as what is known as a “legally non-conforming retail use.”
Nonconforming uses may be disallowed if the property owner substantially expands or changes them without town approval – by, for example, building an addition or starting a different type of business.
Carrboro planning staff will determine this, but in our reading, a wine tasting doesn’t rise to the level of an impermissible use. And we have trouble imagining these gatherings as terribly disruptive exercises; oenophiles sipping chardonnay don’t tend to be the rowdiest of customers.
We’ve heard from a lot of folks, including some who live nearby, who love the friendly and convivial nature of Johnny’s and are quick to come to its defense.
And we’ve heard from a few who say the traffic and noise have no place in a residential neighborhood. They are especially concerned about the business’s plans to seek town approval to present live music outside.
We don’t live there, so we don’t have a dog in this hunt. But the managers of Johnny’s appear to be doing their best both to maintain a viable business and be respectful of their neighbors.
Although it is in a residential zone, Johnny’s isn’t exactly tucked into a hushed glade; it is right on the town’s main street – literally – and midway between the nearby business districts of downtown and Carrboro Plaza.
This seems like a situation in which an acceptable compromise should be within reach. An agreement that would put reasonable limits on noise, traffic and hours of operation ought to be sufficient to allow people to enjoy Johnny’s and also let neighbors keep their peace.
And we hope the wine tastings can get the OK again. We’d like to try one of the reds.
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