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Town tables discussion on outdoor seating for Root + Barrel

After asking Root + Barrel owner Brett Murphy to present a specific plan to develop a piece of town owned property along Main Street for outdoor seating at the restaurant last month, in a split vote, the town voted to table discussion on Monday night.

Murphy addressed the board in July saying the restaurant would like to be able to add 40 more seats in the alley, which would mean an additional 20 seats during the 50 percent capacity COVID-19 orders. Normal full capacity inside is 150, Murphy said, and under the governor’s orders, the restaurant is permitted to operate at 50 percent capacity. ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) regulations would also require Root + Barrel to put up some sort of barrier around the outdoor seating to be able to serve alcohol.

Monday night, the board heard a proposal for Root + Barrel to purchase less than a half an acre of property owned by the town adjacent to the restaurant for the development into an outdoor seating patio. Council members quickly shot down the idea of allowing Root + Barrel to purchase the property, and shortly entertained the idea of leasing it for an extended period of time, however Councilmembers Joe Collins, Jack Horton and Dinah Mashburn voted against that measure as well.

Council member David Culpepper spoke in support of the project, specifically siting the town’s comprehensive plan, which encourages the town to look at ways to transform alley ways into outdoor dining for local businesses.

“One element we talked about was converting alley ways into dining opportunities and this goes along with that perfectly,” he said.

The town’s comprehensive plan’s top three improvement priorities include converted/improved ally connectors, 2nd floor business uses, and public art. The Root + Barrell proposed addressing the public art and converted alley way as approved by the town in the comp plan.

 However, Mayor Bob Scott said that he didn’t believe the space between the restaurant and the town hall building qualified as an alley way. The only other alley way located on Main Street before the red light is a connected walking path to access the back parking lot.

The Root + Barrel explained the request was to accommodate the requests from customers who want opportunities for outdoor dining with their children or pets.

Mayor Scott called for a vote to table to discussion regarding moving forward with an agreement with the Root + Barrel after Council member Joe Collins made the motion. After Mashburn and Horton voted with Collins, Mayor Scott said he would be the tie-breaker vote and vote to table the discussion, without giving Council members Culpepper, Mike Lewis, or Barbara McRae, the opportunity to cast their vote and assuming them to be “no” votes.

The vote to table the discussion isn’t an action for or against working toward a solution in the future – however, it just ends the conversation one way or the other. Culpepper asked if it would not be more beneficial to entertain a vote to look into the possibility further, however, Mayor Scott said such a motion could not be made.

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