Council members called the meeting to address three ordinances the restaurant allegedly violated since they opened Feb. 23, and Waterclub owners Jeff and K.C. Myers were there to defend their business, which they said could not flourish if their license to serve alcohol was suspended or revoked.
Council members Mary Littlejohn and Ken Landers maintained that on more than one occasion, they witnessed the violation of three ordinances that state the restaurant cannot advertise their sale of alcohol outside, that customers cannot consume alcohol outside and that the restaurant cannot serve alcohol after 10 p.m.
The Myers, who were supported by more than 40 locals who were passionate about the Waterclub and what the restaurant has done to bring more economic growth to their small town, admitted that they had a chalkboard sign outside that did advertise their sale of wine and beer.
“When that was brought to our attention, we brought that inside immediately,” Jeff Myers told the council. “Certainly, that was out front, but you won’t see it again.”
Landers brought up an incident on June 23 when he saw six to eight people sitting outside at about 10:30 p.m. with wine glasses at their table.
Landers went inside and told the Myers they were violating another ordinance.
Jeff Myers said after that night, a sign was put near the door telling customers, “Please, no alcohol outside.”
Another issue discussed was whether or not the restaurant could remain open after 10 p.m. Council member Littlejohn said after she saw lights on in the restaurant past 10 p.m., several times, the Myers were in violation of another ordinance.
“The ordinance doesn’t say that you can’t be open past 10 o’clock,” Attorney Zach Burkhalter clarified. “The ordinance says that if you are open to the public past 10 o’clock, then that constitutes evidence that alcohol is being consumed on the premises. It just creates the legal presumption that alcohol is being served in violation of the ordinance.”
Jeff Myers said he and his wife valued Cave Spring and the chance to contribute to its economic growth.
“Our duty here is to build the economy,” he said. “We have a successful business that is inviting people into this community.”
Ware then gave the public a chance to express their opinion, and more than 10 locals said the Waterclub has done nothing but better the community of Cave Spring.
Donna Staples, owner of Country Cousins, and a Downtown Development Authority board member, said having businesses like the Waterclub would bring more merchants into town so Cave Spring will have a thriving downtown area.
“It’s really hard to do that when everything that comes out of this community and into the news media is so negative, and it’s really to the point of absurd, because we are in the 21st century, believe it or not,” said Staples. “It’s asking us to do the impossible because we’re trying to work with our hands tied behind our backs. There are ordinances that need to be in place that are so much more important than the one we’re addressing today.”
The room rang with applause when Staples took her seat, and other locals expressed that they too thought reprimanding the restaurant for the violated ordinances was silly.
When Littlejohn asked the Myers how many times they stayed open after 10 p.m., the rest of her question was drowned out by boos from the crowd.
“I think this is something that could be worked out without … It’s almost like a witch hunt, I don’t like it, I don’t like it,” said Council member Nellie McCain. “As a council member, I don’t feel like it’s my place to go around and police you.”
Ware suggested that instead of voting on a three-day suspension, which he considered too extreme in this case, that a stern letter of warning be issued to the Myers. However, Landers motioned for a three-day suspension, and the City Council voted 3-1 for a three-day suspension, with McCain casting the sole no vote.
Council member Robin Clements was not present for the vote.
“I will tell all of you I reserve the right to veto your action and I will think about it,” Ware told the council.
Jeff Myers said after the meeting that he and his wife were grateful so many community members showed up to support them.
“I think the support was amazing,” he said. “I don’t think Cave Spring is used to seeing that kind of turnout for any kind of decision, so I think that in itself is a great thing for Cave Spring. “
K.C. Myers said the meeting brought some possibly heftier issues to light for the community to take into consideration.
“I think it gives the town a voice, and we’ll be figuring out … who do you really want running this town? Are these the people you really want speaking for your city?” she said.
Overall, Jeff Myers said locals’ standing up for the business gave Cave Spring a strong sense of unity.
“I think this town has been asleep in some regards and I think something such as Waterclub has given people something to fight for,” he said.