First Street Tavern owner David Schearer said he took the inspiration for his self-service bar from the first place he took his wife on a date.
“It was our favorite place, but we thought, the one thing that’s missing is food,” Schearer said.
With unanimous approval from the Clayton Town Council last week, Schearer eyes a late-August opening for his tavern, which will serve beer, wine and whiskey without a waitstaff. First Street Tavern will have 32 seats, including four on the porch of the large Victorian house at 115 First St. Customers will order beer, wine or bourbon and be handed a glass at the bar. Dips and flatbreads will also be for sale.
Despite a straightforward concept and limited menu, First Street Tavern ran into some pushback from the town council. Councilmen questioned parking, food preparation and impact on surrounding businesses.
“Can you explain how you would eliminate the potential risk to public safety?” Councilman Michael Grannis asked, saying the answer provided in Schearer’s application was too general.
“Myself, I’ve been in the restaurant industry for 24 years and have extensive alcohol training, food-safety training,” Schearer said. “Based on the capacity we’re using it for, it will be more of a lounge area. Our primary target is people 35 and older, so there’s not much of a need for (security). Obviously, any time you have alcohol in a situation, something could happen, so that’s something I would potentially look at.”
Schearer isn’t the first applicant to respond to the town’s findings of fact with one-sentence answers, but Grannis, a restaurant owner in Clayton, said he wanted more-thorough responses. He also asked if Schearer was aware he still needs to get a building inspector to sign off on the tavern’s plans
“I’ve done that many times through the years,” Grannis said of quizzing applicants. “I wasn’t picking on him; I was looking for some specifics.”
Grannis owns the Clayton Steakhouse on Main Street and said he welcomes a new addition to the downtown restaurant scene.
“I’d love to see more restaurants in Clayton,” Grannis said. “I want him to be successful; that’s the bottom line. I want to be sure the applicant really was aware that there are still a few other things to do before he can get open.”
As far as impact on neighboring businesses, Schearer said First Streer Tavern would hold different hours from neighboring businesses Doggie Do’z and the other businesses in the mixed-use Southern Traditions building.
For parking, the tavern plans to use the nearby gravel area where Clayton and Norfolk Southern Railway have a parking agreement. The council was troubled by the fact that the bar’s one handicap parking space is through an agreement with Four Oaks Bank, but councilmen did not find the move out of step with any statute. Councilman Jason Thompson proposed paving part of the gravel area for a space, as gravel does not meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Schearer said he thought the questions were fair and added that he’s excited to bring something new to downtown Clayton.
“Obviously there’s a lot of excitement building around Clayton, and I think it’s understandable to be a little concerned about what’s coming in and how it might impact that downtown scene,” Schearer said. “I think we all want people living in Clayton to be able to stay in Clayton when they want to go out.”
First Street Tavern had to go through the town’s special-use process because it intends to sell beer, wine and liquor, planning director David DeYoung said. Wine on Main, for example, was not subject to review at the time it opened, because it only sold wine by the glass, but it will need to get an special-use permit in the near future because it intends to add beer. Revival 1869, a cocktail lounge slated to open later this year, recently received a special-use permit.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson