Sylva, Jackson eye resolution to new ABC operations

After a month of controversy surrounding the granting of alcohol permits, Sylva and Jackson County leaders have made it their goal to work amicably together and compromise when discussing how the county will handle its ABC operations in the future.

“We really want to work with them (Sylva). We don’t want it to be an adversarial thing,” said Jack Debnam, chair to the Board of Commissioners.


Sylva and Jackson County leaders will meet on June 18 to discuss how to proceed now that nearly any establishment in the county can sell alcohol.

Sylva has an established ABC store and ABC board. The town has sold alcohol within its limits since the 1960s and has the operation running smoothly. But, since the county passed a referendum allowing countywide alcohol sales in May, Jackson County and Sylva must figure out how the decision will change their relationship.

Currently, the town and county split the profits from the ABC store 50-50.

Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody said he hopes that will remain the status quo since the expansion of alcohol sales will not likely translate to a surge in drinking.

“The consumption of alcohol will probably not increase,” Moody said. “Nobody is going to start drinking because the county went wet.”

When the county decides to open another ABC store, the sales at that store will hurt the bottom line of Sylva’s ABC store, which previously had a monopoly on the market. The money is significant, contributing $360,000 last year to town coffers.

Jackson commissioners said they don’t want to hang the town out to dry.

“I don’t want to do anything to hurt the town of Sylva’s income,” Debnam said. “They rely on that store quite a bit for its tax base.”

However, opening a new store seems inevitable. It’s just a matter of when and where.

“At some point in time, I am sure we would like to open an ABC store,” Debnam said.

The Cashiers community is hoping the county will open a new ABC store in its area to dispense with the current long and twisty drive down the mountain into Sylva to pick up alcohol.

The other matter the town and county must discuss is an ABC board – will it have two ABC boards, one for the county and one of Sylva; or will it form a combined board with members from both Sylva and Jackson County at large.

Sylva town leaders at least are leaning toward a more efficient, combined committee.

“I think a joint board would make a lot of sense,” said Interim Sylva Town Manager Mike Morgan.

But, just because the county is now wet doesn’t mean that it has to appoint its own ABC board. Counties are required to have an ABC board, but Jackson County could simply allow the current Sylva ABC board to continue controlling alcohol operations in the county.

“It doesn’t have to change. People think just because we passed the referendum in Jackson County that we have to set up an ABC board, and we do not,” Debnam said.


Learn more:

Leaders from the town of Sylva and Jackson County will hold a joint meeting at 2 p.m. on June 18 to discuss how its ABC operations will work now that countywide alcohol sales have been approved. The meeting will take place in Room A227 at the Justice Center on Grindstaff Cove Road in Sylva.

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