JASPER, Tenn. - The new owners of R&J Snack Shack on the site of the old Jasper Dairy Bar along Betsy Pack Drive want to open their business soon, but city leaders said they will have to abide by Jasper's strict zoning regulations to do it.
Mayor Paul Evans said the property was "grandfathered in" under zoning laws only as a "food establishment."
The property is zoned R-1, City Attorney Mark Raines said, which means it's intended for residential use.
"Of course, the Dairy Bar was in place way before that zoning ever was enacted or put in place," he said.
Raines said he understood the new business was planned as more of a convenience store, which would not be allowed under the zoning rules.
"If that use from food sales ever changes, then it's no longer in compliance with the zone, and it's not permitted," he said.
The only way anything other than food service would be permitted on the site would be to change that zone, Raines said.
"There's not any way under the grandfather provision," he said.
The property's zone can't be changed to commercial use because it would be considered "spot zoning," which is illegal under state law, officials said.
Raines said the property must be a part of a "continuous extension" of Jasper's downtown commercial zone to be rezoned legally.
R&J Snack Shack co-owner Joyce Tate said she wants to keep the establishment "family oriented" and will follow the city's zoning rules.
"We are going to be a full restaurant," she said. "If the beer is an issue, we're OK with letting the beer go. We will never have on-site consumption if that's not allowed."
"On-premises consumption" of alcohol would be allowed through a food service business as long as "[the owners] can meet the other restrictions that are applicable," Raines said.
Evans said the property must be 1,000 feet away from nearby schools and any church for on-premises consumption to be allowed, and at least 300 feet away for packaged alcohol sales.
"We meet the distance requirements," Tate said. "We have a lot of people who come in, and they get pizza and beer. They go home with it. We'd rather them go home with it versus staying there, drinking it and then driving to their house."
Tate said she is in the process of applying to sell lottery tickets at the new business, but Raines said he'd have to do some research to find out if that would be allowed.
"I don't see how that could be tied in with food sales," he said. "If the other restaurants in town sell lottery tickets, I think absolutely they could. I'm just not that well versed on it to know if that's part of the food sales trade."
Normally the matter would be resolved by the city's zoning board, Evans said, but since that board won't meet for another month he asked the owners to come before the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen to settle any zoning issues.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.