By Alyssa Schnugg
A local businessman has applied for a permit to demolish two historic buildings on North Main Street in Water Valley, citing the city’s alcohol laws as being too restrictive to allow him to open a successful business.
Terry Warren, owner of Rebel Rags in Oxford purchased the buildings in 2017 and planned to open a bar and restaurant. However, on Tuesday, he told Hottytoddy.com he is wanting to tear the buildings down for the tax write-off to make up for money he’s spent on renovations on buildings he says he can’t use now.
Warren claims the city’s Beer Ordinance is too restrictive. According to the ordinance, passed in 2014, restaurants and bars can serve liquor and wine; however, if someone orders a beer, it has to be served with a meal.
The ordinance reads: “No person or licensee under this ordinance shall sell give or dispense or permit to be sold given or dispensed beer or light wine to a patron without serving to such patron a meal therewith or anticipation thereof.”
“They’ve regulated me out,” Warren said. “I’ve put a million dollars into the buildings that I can’t use.”
During a public meeting in October 2017, Warren requested the Water Valley Board of Aldermen change the law. A month later, a motion to change the ordinance was made by Ward 1 Alderman Kagan Coughlin during the board’s regular meeting; however, the motion died from a lack of a second to the motion and the Beer Ordinance remained the same.
“We walked out of the meeting and locked up the buildings and turned the power off,” Warren said.
Warren said he waited a year before applying for the permit to demolish because he was waiting until his father passed away. Gene Warren died Dec. 30.
“I didn’t want him dealing with any of the backlash over this,” Warren said.
The city’s building inspector will review the application for the permit and then approve or deny the request.
The buildings are about 140 years old and were first built by the original families who settled in Water Valley from Philadelphia.
Main Street Alliance Director Mickey Howley said he agrees the Beer Ordinance might stifle economic growth in the downtown area of Water Valley, demolishing the buildings should not be the answer. Two restaurants have opened up in Water Valley since the law was put in place and four others have continue to operate.
“They are a major asset to the community here,” Howley said about the buildings. “(Warren) is right about his message but wrong on how he’s going about this … He was aware of the law when he purchased the buildings, which should not be torn down out of vengeance.”
Howley said the alliance has asked the Board of Aldermen to return the ordinance to how it was originally passed in 2008, removing the requirement for meals with each beer ordered, and create a Downtown District.
“It hasn’t gone anywhere yet,” Howley said.
Warren said he would consider selling the buildings but fears he wouldn’t be able to sell them for what he’s put into the two buildings’ renovations.
“It would probably be better for me to write it off as a total loss and take the tax credit,” he said.
Warren also said he would consider allowing another business to rent the buildings – possibly at no cost – if they completed the renovations on the building.
As Warren waits for the building inspector’s decision, Howley said the businesses on Main Street are hoping the buildings remain and a more “rational” solution can be found.
“(Warren) may just be trying to push the aldermen into action,” Howley said. “They know this needs to be changed. This law being in place is a deal breaker for restaurants looking at opening in Water Valley. It’s stopped four other places that I know of in the four years it’s been a law.”