Canton alcohol policy needs more latitude

Jul 30, 2014

The Canton Board of Aldermen is looking into amending the town’s alcohol ordinance to allow more flexibility for future downtown events.

While the current policy prohibits alcohol consumption and possession on town-owned property, the new proposed ordinance would allow the board to approve alcohol at events on a case-by-case basis. As Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss pointed out, changing the ordinance could create some great opportunities for Canton.

Waynesville and Maggie Valley have more open policies that allow them to host a number of festivals and events, which create economic benefits for local businesses.

Many promoters will not even consider a location if they can’t at least serve beer during an event. Several residents in Canton are concerned about allowing alcohol to be served on town property — some even stating they didn’t want Canton to become Asheville.

Canton will never be Asheville for a number of reasons, and allowing alcohol to be served at special events will not change that. It will however give the town more freedom to attract events while also giving it control over what type of events it wants to host.

The board of aldermen would have the authority to approve or deny an event based on the proposal. If the board members and the police feel like the proposed event couldn’t be well managed for public safety, they wouldn’t approve it.

There are a number of safeguards to prevent problems, including wristbands for those allowed to drink, police presence, proper training for servers and of course permitting would have to go through the state process just like the other towns do.

If the Canton board wants to continue to move toward its strategic goal for economic development, it will update its alcohol policy. Everyone wants to see more going on downtown and this is an easy way to accomplish that goal.

Canton should approach this change with caution though and have a conversation with the Waynesville organizations and the town of Maggie Valley about the state permitting processes. In the past, the town of Maggie Valley has applied for alcohol permitting for the festival grounds and has kept portions of the alcohol proceeds. However, the board of aldermen is now trying to get out of the alcohol business by requiring the promoters and vendors to apply for the permitting. Listening to the advice of other towns that have been through similar problems would be beneficial for Canton as it begins the process.