Beer business up against state

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CHAPEL HILL -- The woman who sought and won table service for beer at restaurants here has reacted "diplomatically" to the Marshall County Beer Board vote permitting beer sales at the Henry Horton State Park golf course.

"It looks like I opened some doors for some people," said Tina Wesson, proprietor of Sambo's Barbecue Restaurant just north of the state park where she described a market for beer sales to golfers who couldn't get a beer at the pro shop's snack bar.

In late 2007, Wesson approached the Chapel Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen about permitting the sale of beer by the drink at restaurants. She said golfers from the state park course were stopping at her business asking to buy beer and drink it with a sandwich. While the town granted the first beer service permit to the Mexican restaurant across the street from Forrest High School, the second went to Wesson nearly 10 months after she first approached town officials about changing local ordinances.

Early last week, the county beer board granted a permit to state officials for the sale of beer at the pro shop snack bar. Henry Horton State Park is the third Tennessee park to do so and sales are expected to start within three weeks.

So, as the state got it's permit, Wesson had questions.

"Can you take your own beer on the course?" she asked. "Must you buy their beer?"

Sambo's customers can't drink beer on the front porch of the restaurant, she said. That would be drinking in public.

Meanwhile, Wesson asks, "Diplomatically, democratically: If they're going to have that, shouldn't the people vote on it?" She points out that the state park is owned by the state and is therefore owned by the people.

Furthermore, as the proprietor of a private business, Wesson must pay for her place and will soon be competing against the state for beer sales.

Marshall County Commissioner Billy Spivey made the same point at the Beer Board meeting last week, but also came to the realization that the Board is limited to making decisions based on very specific guidelines. If the rules for a permit are observed, then he Board can't deny a permit.

And while Wesson was diplomatic about the permit issued to the state park, she also took a philosophical stance.

"You know me," she said. "I can get along with anybody."