By RACHAEL LONG
Nolensville’s newest alderman did not waste a moment before he began acting on one of his top campaign talking points: updating the beer ordinance.
At his first town meeting as an alderman, Derek Adams sought a motion related to removing a restriction on the beer ordinance. When it came time for a second, the room was silent.
After the meeting, Adams said in an interview with Home Page that he expected the outcome, noting the board “likes their ability to oversee.”
And while his first attempts at addressing the beer ordinance did not go to plan, Adams’ plans to challenge the ordinance were just getting started.
His next move? To bring the beer ordinance before the board at the next Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, on Feb. 7, in hopes of making some changes.
The Nolensville beer ordinance, which dates back to 1997, requires restaurants which sell beer to maintain at least 65 percent of gross income as food sales. The state law (section 30-A) sets the mark for food sales lower, at only 50 percent of gross income.
At the time of its creation, Adams said the law was probably designed to deter dive bars from being created. Twenty years later, he says it doesn’t make sense anymore.
The demographics of Nolensville have changed, Adams said. Now, the town is more family-oriented with a free-market demand he says mimics that of Brentwood and Franklin.
“I don’t think the law is accomplishing anything anymore,” Adams said. “It just makes [Nolensville] a less desirable place to open a restaurant.”
Adams thinks Nolensville’s sense of community, its “help your neighbor” mentality and the proposed implementation of the state liquor law in place of the town’s current code, would prevent unwanted bars from opening.
The ordinance, as it stands now, also makes it difficult for restaurants that serve beer to remain open, Adams said, in reference to Nolen’s Place, which closed in November. Brother’s Burger Joint opened in its stead, and Adams said its owners have said they are confident they will hit the necessary mark for food sales.
But he fears that the demand for an atmosphere where guests can linger and enjoy a few beers with friends may cause the few restaurants that have come to town to sell more beer than they expect.
“But if you reduce our beer ordinance to match the state and it encourages more restaurants to pop up, then you’ve got more competition,” Adams said. “It spreads the demand for beer in a natural way, just like you see in Brentwood and Franklin.”
After the outcome of his last attempt to alter the town’s beer code, Adams is not hugely optimistic that the board will hear him out.
“While we will be working together on most things, I do think I’m in the rare spot of representing change,” Adams said. “With what we’re experiencing right now with the growth…it puts me in that spot to represent the change, represent people who are hoping to move Nolensville forward.”
His ideas may not always be well-received by some in the community, but Adams said that is to be expected in a growing town.
He describes his relationship with the rest of the board as the marrying of two versions of the town: “old-school Nolensville,” as he affectionately referred to it, and “new Nolensville.”
New Nolensville, he said, represents the vast number of people who have moved to town in the last several years, while the former represents those who have called Nolensville home for a long time. People who, Adams said, may not want to see a lot of change.
But Adams thinks change — to some degree — is inevitable here. As someone who moved into the town for the same reasons, Adams said people come to Nolensville because it’s got a small-town atmosphere in an area with good schools and low property tax.
“The secret’s out,” Adams said. “We’re not going to stop the growth. I want to encourage it to happen in the right way.”
In his new role as alderman, Adams says the beer ordinance is one of many changes he would like to see made for the town. While his focus at the February meeting will be on the beer ordinance, Adams said he’d also like to revisit the town’s design ordinances and a combination fire station.
And while he’s passionate about the town’s leadership eventually making changes to the beer ordinance, Adams said his purpose for introducing its removal is not necessarily to bring home a landslide vote in his favor, but simply to get the conversation started.
“Getting to the vote, to me, is a win. As long as we get past the motion,” Adams said. “If we get to the discussion and we get a vote on the record, that’s the first step in making change, and that’s really all I’m hoping for.”