Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

A spring music festival may have hit a dead end due to the interpretation of a town ordinance. Led by Jimbo Ledford, a group of citizens in Franklin, JEPaCA (Jimbo’s Event Planning and Cooperation Association), have been working to organize “Springtopia” a spring music festival in downtown Franklin. 

The event is described as a “culmination of a dream, that was placed into our minds not long ago, to help bring healing and virility to this beautiful town called Franklin, Music is power, it can soothe the savage beast, calm the wildest storms within, and offer guidance for the deepest mysteries about ourselves. Music calls people; people hear the call, and listen. We believe we can use the power of music to help Franklin become all that it can be.” 

According to Ledford, Springtopia is intended to be the first in a series of music and concert events focused on attracting tourism, and the economic boost that comes with it. Different venues, considered to be open and already available, will be used to “help visitors find the beauty and comfort in our little piece of heaven.” 

For the event, which is scheduled for April 20, two locations, the Root+Barrel and the Rathskeller Coffee Haus and Pub were selected to play host to four different musical acts. Groups already booked for the event includes Nick Prestia, Forrest Rivers, Brother Bluebird, Woolly Adelgid, and the Orange Constant.

While applying for the proper permits to hold the event, which was expected to overflow out of the Rathskeller into the adjacent parking lot, event organizers were notified by NC ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) that the event would not be permitted because Stewart Street, which runs in front of the Rathskeller, is a public, town owned street. Because the town of Franklin has an ordinance prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on a town property (aside from at the Lazy Hiker, which is located on property owned by the town), the ALE would not provide the event with a permit. 

In the past, several similar events have been held at the Rathskeller, which is owned by Town Council Member Adam Kimsey,  which have included marking off a designated area in front of the business that allows the consumption of alcohol outside. Kimsey has applied for and been granted an ABC extension permit that has allowed similar events to occur in the past. However, when the same permit was applied for for Springtopia, for whatever reason, the request was denied based on the town’s ordinance. 

Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard assured the board that the permit denial was not something the town had any control over, and, in fact, the town has no problem with Springtopia being held as planned. However, ALE is using the town ordinance as its basis for the denial. 

The street in question is Stewart Street. If it is owned by the town, Franklin currently has an ordinance that prohibits any consumption of alcohol on town property, streets or sidewalks. The ordinance doesn’t leave room for debate. The confusion lies in who actually owns the property in front of Rathskeller. While Stewart Street runs off of Phillips Street, town leaders aren’t sure where it ends. Does it run pass the Rathskeller, ending in the parking lot, or does it end when the stripes end before the Rathskeller? Depending on where it ends, the property where Springtopia is proposed may be private property, and then exempt from the town ordinance. 

Woodard said that because the town has supported the section of property being closed in the past for other events, she would be happy to confer the town’s support to the ALE in hopes of clearing up confusion to allow Springtopia to be held while the issue of the property line is fully resolved. 

Ledford, however, said with the bands already booked for April 20, marketing the event is imperative. So rather than wait for another decision from the ALE, and in the event they don’t change their minds, the portion of the event that was scheduled to take place at the Rathskeller will be moved to another location. 

The town council also gave Franklin Town Attorney John Henning Jr. the go-ahead to draft proposed changes to the town ordinance to allow the town to consider similar events where alcohol is consumed in the future. Last month, the board unanimously directed Henning and Woodard to look at how other towns handle permitting alcohol consumption at events located in town. Monday night, Henning informed the board that he had reviewed ordinances from Highlands, Waynesville, Sylva, Canton, and Laurel Park and thinks an ordinance similar to Canton’s would best suit Franklin. 

Town Council member Dinah Mashburn said that while she originally agreed to have Henning and Woodard to review how other towns handle it, now that the work was completed and Mashburn has heard from people in the community, she didn’t want the town to pursue the matter any further. 

“I originally wanted to see what other towns did, but now after hearing from the public and as a substance abuse advocate, I don’t want to pursue it any more.” 

Despite Mashburn’s objection, the board directed Henning to bring a proposal to the board in May. A proposal is just that, a possibility for the board to consider. The board can decide to approve it, scrap it, or make additional changes before consideration. 

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