Though an alcohol referendum is on Clayton’s November ballot, Wine on Main is trying to tap the keg early.
The popular downtown wine shop and bar is seeking approval from the town to change its designation to a cocktail lounge, enabling it to sell both beer and wine by the glass.
If the application moves smoothly through Clayton’s review process, the shop could be selling draft beer before Clayton voters head to the polls this fall.
Wine on Main was part of a push earlier this year asking Clayton to reexamine its alcohol laws, which are somewhat more restrictive than those in much of Johnston County.
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Clayton passed narrow alcohol restrictions decades ago, allowing beer to be served in restaurants but not in beer or wine shops unless operating as a private club, a costlier ABC designation. Wine on Main is seeking a special-use permit to pour glasses of beer in addition to wine, and on Monday night, it won the planning board’s recommendation of approval to the town council.
“We’ve been asked by a number of our customers why we only serve wine,” Christina Menges said. “If it’s what the public actually wants, variety and choice on that particular level, if we don’t start providing it, perhaps our business suffers.”
Menges said Wine on Main had put its application in motion about three months ago, seeing no sense in waiting to see the results of the referendum when the shop could take the matter into its hands now.
“If the referendum were not to pass, we’d have to start the process in November and we’re set back another three months and have to wait until January,” Menges said. “We decided we didn’t want to do that when we’re ready now.”
Wine on Main has been open for more than a year, but in that time, what once felt like an oasis of nightlife in downtown Clayton has proved to be a catalyst. A handful of other businesses specializing in alcohol have put plans in motion in the last 12 months, and all of a sudden, Clayton is hanging banners on its lampposts reading “Nightlife.”
From Deep River Brewing on one end of town to Wine on Main on the other, it seems the Clayton pub crawl is not far off. Menges credits the town’s elected officials for nurturing a small idea into a burgeoning industry.
“I think what’s happening is terrific; the more variety the better,” she said. “It all supports Clayton as a community and brings tourism, with everything kind of building on that foodie, pubby vibe. I think that’s really smart, and the town has been really wise in determining how growth is carried out, not just paving Main Street with bar after bar and pub after pub, but being mindful of what businesses are being established and where.”
The Clayton Planning Board offered little resistance, unanimously supporting Wine on Main’s request for a special-use permit. The town council will review the application during its second September meeting and hold a public hearing Oct. 3.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson