Canton debates public alcohol ordinance

A new push to change the public alcohol consumption and possession law in Canton has not come without controversy.

“At present time, no vote has been cast and we as a board are currently working through the pros and cons of a possible ordinance change that would give us the ability, if requested, to allow beer and/or wine to be sold on town property,” said Town Board Alderman Zeb Smathers. “However, at the present time, no event is before us to consider.”

The debate arose when the board brought the issue to the forefront during their public hearing meeting on July 24. The board wanted to see if allowing alcohol consumption and possession on town property could be a viable option in hosting and attracting festivals and larger events in Canton. If allowed, the board would have the power to approve or disapprove alcohol requests for specific events.

At the hearing, members of the public voiced their concerns over having alcohol openly and publicly consumed in their community, which many felt could cause more harm than good. The board assured the audience that nothing was set in stone in changing the ordinance, which currently prohibits the consumption and possession of alcohol on town property and streets. 

“I understand and appreciate the reasons, whether moral or safety based, why some are against the change,” Smathers said this week. “If passed, public safety will be my number one concern concerning the approval of any event, and I could not see myself supporting any event that brings negative attention to our town.”

As in the hearing, Smathers again pointed out the board’s interest in encouraging more events and business into Canton by loosening the alcohol laws.

“A change in the ordinance would bring Canton to the same position of our sister towns of Waynesville and Maggie Valley,” he explained. “I’m committed and support bold economic development and want people across the area to know that Canton is ‘Now Open for Business.’ Whether hosting events or attracting new jobs, my passion is for Canton to have the ability to compete on every level, and a change to this ordinance would allow us to do so.”

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