LANSING-Dylan Lightfoot has heard the buzz that Lansing leaders are in favor of bringing “liquor by the drink” to the tiny town.
The Lansing alderman said he’s even fielded questions from folks concerned the town is trying to use a kind of scenic byway backdoor to sneakily approve the sale of alcohol in a community whose population barely tops 160 people.
State statutes allow certain businesses near national scenic parkways to sell alcohol in some instances. That includes mixed drinks of the sort that can usually only be sold in North Carolina in cities or towns that hold a vote on the matter.
And Lansing did apply for a North Carolina Department of Transportation Scenic Byway designation in August that would run through town. The proposed route would run from NC 194/88 at Smethport to the intersection in Lansing, up Big Horse Creek Rd. to Whenlin Ridge Rd. to Farmers Store and on to the Virginia state line.
But that doesn’t mean the town is trying to reap the economic rewards that come with alcohol sales without putting the matter up for a vote, Lightfoot said.
“I think some people think we’re trying to do something underhanded with the scenic byway but we’re not,” Lightfoot said. “That’s simply not the case.”
Lightfoot said the town was primarily concerned with the proposed state byway’s positive economic impacts instead of whether or not it would open up the sale of alcohol in Lansing.
At least one study completed in 1996, for instance, found that visitors each year spent more than $1.8 billion in counties adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the nation’s most popular scenic drives.
The bottom line? Communities that lie along scenic byways can likely expect a positive bump in tourism spending which Lightfoot said Lansing needs.
“If a business here applies to the ABC and is approved to sell liquor by the drink, that’s fine,” Lightfoot said. “But that’s not the goal of the byway.”
State says no
The state does offer exceptions to liquor laws that allow some tourism impacted businesses like hotels or restaurants to sell alcohol in otherwise “dry” communities.
But Agnes Stevens, public affairs director for the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, said those wouldn’t apply to Lansing.
The town meets one requirement. Lansing is located in a county where one town, West Jefferson, allows the sale of malt beverages or unfortified wine.
But it fails the second requirement – that eligible businesses be located within “1.5 miles of the end or an entrance or exit ramp of a junction on a national scenic parkway.”
That’s a provision other local businesses – notably Park Vista Restaurant which sits just off the federally-controlled Blue Ridge Parkway near Fleetwood – have taken advantage of to sell alcohol.
But Stevens said the state byway proposed for Lansing leaves the town out in the cold if it’s looking to sell liquor.
The community isn’t left totally dry, however. For years Lansing hosted New River Winery and ABC officials have already granted temporary permits to Molly Chomper, LLC, a planned cidery.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr