Dr. Pat O’Brien, franchise co-owner of The Casual Pint of Farragut, reached the first hurdle in his request to add space to his tavern at 143 Brooklawn St. for a food preparation area.
Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen, in a 4-1 vote at its meeting Thursday, Jan. 26, approved on first reading O’Brien’s request to amend the maximum square footage allowed for a Class 4 on-premise tavern from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet if food is served. The Board also voted to require any future tavern to have 5 to 8 percent food sales revenues.
O’Brien said Monday he still wants to use the food trucks in addition to the food he prepares in the kitchen.
The food, which would be prepared in the proposed kitchen, is more snack food, not real meals, said Barbara O’Brien, The Casual Pint franchise co-owner.
“We would like to still have the option of having food trucks periodically to give people other options of food we won’t have,” she said Monday. “So, yes, we would still like to continue to use food trucks. We probably won’t use them as often, but we want to continue to have that as an option.”
While Mayor Ralph McGill and Aldermen Bob Markli, Ron Pinchok and Louise Povlin voted to allow O’Brien to add 500 more square feet, Alderman Ron Williams voted against the request.
“The whole process is pushing food trucks,” Williams said. “My experience with food trucks has not been good.”
He said his main concern is the Town’s receiving Sales Tax from food trucks and regulating the trucks.
“The town needs to collect Sales Tax,” Williams said. “If the trucks are not based in Town, there is no way to collect taxes from them.”
“It depends on the food trucks and where they are located out of,” Barbara O’Brien said. “Like, right now, we know that one of the food trucks does its prep in Season’s [restaurant in Turkey Creek], so that food truck probably is paying taxes to Farragut.
“I don’t know specifically, but if they are registered in the Town and they do their food prep in the Town, then the Town would get some benefit from that,” she added.
“The thing I think people forget is that we’re paying Sales Tax, and if our income increases due to food, which we have found happens when we have food trucks, we’re paying more taxes to the Town,” Barbara O’Brien said. “So, it’s a win for us, a win for our customers and it’s a win for the Town.
“If our income increases, we are going to pay more taxes,” she added. “Pat did a comparison of days with and without food trucks, and we saw an increase in our sales of up to 30 percent in sales on the days we had food trucks.”
Last year, O’Brien approached the Board about the Town changing its current ordinance to allow food trucks other than at special events.
“When we proposed this [allowing food trucks in Town], we actually wanted to use food trucks at our store, but we also wanted an ordinance to be written so that it could be something for the whole Town, not just to benefit us,” Barbara O’Brien said. “We would like there to be some sort of an ordinance written so that every time we have a food truck, we’re not having to pay $25 for each permit. It would be nice for the Town to have an ordinance that we can use and other people can use.”
Pat O’Brien’s request went to Farragut Economic Devel-opment Advisory Committee as well, and a committee made up of Board members, Farragut Municipal Planning Commissioners and EDAC members was formed.
During the Board meeting Jan. 26, O’Brien said he has been given an opportunity to use unfinished space next door, which he would like to use for a food prep area and storage. His current space is 2,997 square feet and he did not want to use existing space for the food prep area.
He first asked to change the maximum square footage allowed to 4,500 square feet to ensure his tavern was within code but he later said the food prep area would probably no more than 600 square feet.
“So, we’re probably going to do something in the 400- to 500-square foot range for the food prep area,” he said.
However, the current ordinance states a Class 4 tavern “must be housed in building space and/or tenant space that doers not exceed 3,000 gross square feet.”
Markli asked how the 3,000 square feet came to be the designated space.
“The 3,000 square feet actually came from The Casual Pint,” Town recorder Allison Myers said. “They were the original ones who requested this additional permitting for a beer permit.
“Originally, we only had a 60 [percent food requirement]-40 [percent alcohol requirement] for a restaurant,” she said. “So this [3,000 square feet] was the space [The Casual Pint] was looking at, and the Board, at the time, didn’t want it to be a big club. They wanted to make it smaller, more intimate-type area. It’s no magical number.”
Before May 2014, when the Board voted to allow Class 4 taverns, only restaurants could sell beer, she said.
“I’m a little concerned about 4,500 square feet,” Povlin said about O’Brien’s request. “That makes me uneasy.
“It sounds more like restaurant size than tavern size. My concern is it has grown too big.”
She said she would be comfortable with 3,500 square feet, however. Pinchok agreed he also would be more comfortable with 3,500 square feet [change in the ordinance].”
Povlin also asked that there be a minimum food sales requirement of 12 percent.
“The residents have spoken. They want some sort of food sales in their taverns,” she said. “I want there to be food, not just popcorn and pretzels.”
O’Brien, however, said he did not know if he could meet that percentage requirement because he only will be serving about eight or nine frozen, heated-up processed appetizer items, such as flat bread and wings.
“I don’t know what the percentage will be,” he said.
“I don’t want to put it at a number that is not sustainable or not achievable,” Povlin said. “I’m not tied to a particular percentage of food sales, but there needs to be something that encourages food.
“It’s more going forward,” she added. “I don’t want any more taverns that aren’t serving food. It’s not going to work in the town of Farragut.”
“I have a little trouble putting a percentage on this,” Pinchok said. “I understand it’s a bad business model not to have food. I think any business that comes forward as a tavern will probably learn from that, but I think [putting a percentage on food sales] is a little restrictive.”
On another note, O’Brien said he has been asked by two food truck owners to use his food prep area as a commissary. He would be responsible for any health department violations even if the food truck owners were responsible for the violations. He said by being a commissary, the food truck businesses would be Farragut-registered businesses.
“A lot of this sounds like it’s banking on the food truck commissary kitchen part of it,” Williams said.
O’Brien said he is not.
“They came to me,” he said. “My main thing is not that. My main thing is to be able to offer appetizer food, which will help our sales.”
The Board, when it changed its ordinance in May 2014 to allow taverns, limited the number of taverns to three, which the Town has reached with The Casual Pint, Mind Yer P’s and Q’s and Water 2 Wine. Both Mind Yer P’s and Q’s, which has 1,900 square feet, and Water 2 Wine, which has 2,054 square feet, already have food prep areas.
In other action, the Board approved unanimously on final reading to rezone 8.63 acres, belonging to Sal Guadiano of Diversified Holdings, from R-2 [General Single-Family Residential District] and Floodplain District to R-4 [Attached Single-Family Residential] and FTD. The property is located north of Farragut Commons and Chapel Point off Grigsby Chapel Road.
The Board also approved unanimously changes to the Town’s supplemental retirement plan regarding a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, a judicial order entered as part of property division in a divorce. According to state law, the plan must honor a QDRO of the Internal Revenue code.