Brittany Lofthouse, Contributing Writer
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, the Town of Franklin voted August 4 to table discussions.
Murphy said 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% capacity COVID-19 orders. Normal full capacity inside is 150, Murphy said, and under the N.C. governor’s orders, the restaurant is permitted to operate at 50% 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 were generally not in favor of allowing Root + Barrel to purchase the property, yet entertained the idea of leasing it for an extended period of time; however, council members 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 alleyways 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 + Barrel proposed addressing the public art and converted alleyway as approved by the town in the comprehensive plan. However, Mayor Bob Scott said that he did not believe the space between the restaurant and the town hall building qualified as an alleyway. The only other alleyway located on Main Street before the red light is a connected walking path to access the back parking lot.
After council member Joe Collins made the motion, Mayor Scott called for a vote to table the discussion regarding moving forward with an agreement with the Root + Barrel. After Mashburn and Horton voted with Collins, Mayor Scott said he would be the tie-breaker vote and voted 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.