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Brunch ordinance passes over opposition in Canton

Brunch ordinance passes over opposition in Canton

After weeks of public comment, opposition by religious leaders and appeals by the local business community, a controversial “Brunch Bill” ordinance passed the Canton Board of Aldermen/women Oct. 26.

The motion, made by Alderman Ralph Hamlett and seconded by Alderwoman Gail Mull, passed by a vote of 2 to 1, with one abstention.

“I think it’s a conflict or has the appearance of being a possible conflict, and that’s why I will abstain,” said Alderman Zeb Smathers, whose family owns the building in which the Southern Porch restaurant and bar operates; Southern Porch owner Nathan Lowe had previously spoken out in favor of the ordinance.

Canton’s brunch ordinance allows alcohol to be served or sold, both on-premise and off-premise, on Sundays at 10 a.m. rather than noon.

Town attorney William Morgan said that the abstention still counts as a ‘yes’ vote, effectively leaving Alderwoman Carole Edwards as the only opponent of the measure.

Edwards, however, did not go silently into that good night — nor did Mayor Mike Ray, even though Ray as mayor votes only in case of a tie and thus did not get to cast a vote on the ordinance.

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Neither Edwards nor Ray decided to seek re-election this year, and are both on their way out; their last meeting in their current positions will be Nov. 9, but that didn’t stop them from leaving some parting comments after the measure was passed.

“I oppose it,” Edwards said. “And if I might just add a comment to that, I’m a deacon in my church and have had quite a few people approach me about this. I want to applaud Bryson City [where a similar measure failed] because, it doesn’t really matter to me that we lie between Asheville and Waynesville [where the measure has been adopted], and that the passage of this is banking upon that, that we need to fall in line with these other two municipalities.”

The argument had been raised by distillery owner Dave Angel during public comment weeks prior that with Asheville and Waynesville already on board, Canton might lose business to the two towns.

“I’ve had people share with me that they thought that was not something that our town needed,” Edwards continued. “I feel the same.”

Indeed, there are few venues in Canton that would benefit from the ordinance currently, but Angel and Lowe both brought up the signal such an ordinance sends to business owners who might be considering Canton as a location for their brewery, distillery or fancy brunch spot.

A proposed ordinance is still outstanding in Maggie Valley, where some opposition has been heard.

“This has passed and is now a change to our ordinance,” said Mayor Mike Ray after the vote.

But Ray also added, “I do not think this is necessary for our town.”

Edwards is thus far the first and only elected official in Haywood County that has voted against a brunch ordinance, but others may soon join her; although a similar ordinance passed Waynesville unanimously, a proposed ordinance is still outstanding in Maggie Valley, where some opposition has been heard.

Haywood County itself has not yet heard a proposal for a brunch ordinance, and likely won’t; two of the five commissioners have already indicated they wouldn’t support such an ordinance. Haywood’s remaining municipality — the Town of Clyde — has taken no action, either.

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