So far nobody has applied for a license that would enable them to open a “bar” in Williamsburg, but some have called the city asking about it.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison, who also serves as the city’s Alcohol Beverage Control Administrator, said that he has gotten four phone calls inquiring about the possibility of getting a retail quota drink license, or bar license as most people would commonly refer to it.
“They are asking me number one is it something Williamsburg would be open to? My answer to that is if you run it legal and you run it right. If it stays classy and neat, I don’t have a problem with it,” Harrison said.
Harrison said that personally, he would love to see one or both of the city’s bar licenses go to hotels for tourism purposes.
“The public could go to them as well. I just don’t know if our hotels are interested in that at all,” Harrison said.
Williamsburg’s Exit 11 already has the Cumberland Inn, the Hampton Inn, and a Holiday Inn Express is currently under construction, but Harrison added that he thinks there is room for one more hotel.
“We have had three events this year where I have had to call Corbin and ask them if they would offer special rates because of the things coming to Williamsburg. I know that is three events out of 12 months, but I think if you build it, they will come,” Harrison said.
“It might be a selling point to have a place where someone could stop, go down stairs, have coffee, Pepsi or an alcoholic drink and then go back up to their room.”
Harrison said none of the inquiries have gotten to the point where he has checked into the exact process that would take place for someone to apply for a bar license.
Harrison said he knows alcohol opponents will argue that bars are not what voters approved when they voted to allow the sale of alcohol by the drink at restaurants that seat as few as 50 people and to allow the sale of packaged alcohol in town on June 28, 2016.
“I’ll not lie. I think it is a fair criticism,” Harrison said. “As a matter of fact, I even said at the beginning pushing for the vote that in a town our size we couldn’t even have bars. I even said at the time that is not something I was pushing for.”
Harrison said that he had no way of knowing a push would later be made in the state legislature to allow bars in places as small as Williamsburg. Previously, a town had to have a population of at least 8,000 people in order to have bars.
“I never saw this coming,” Harrison said. “Looking at our population growth in the last 40 years I knew that kind of population growth was not going to happen.”
Harrison said that in reality most of the restaurants in town already have a “bar” area, and he can’t envision an establishment making it financially just selling alcohol in Williamsburg.
“I think you are going to have to sell food to make it financially. If you sell food and you sell alcohol, then you are a restaurant,” Harrison added.