County allows on-site sales, consumption of alcohol at agritourism sites

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 3, 2023

SALISBURY – The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously for an ordinance change that will allow properties in the agricultural zoning district to have on-site consumption and sales of alcohol.

The commissioners amended the current agriculture overlay district for this purpose, but it also allows agriculture zoned properties to sell retail items and have other “service and recreational businesses,” according to Ed Muire, the director of the Rowan County Planning and Zoning Department.

“I don’t get the impression any farm is going to open a bar, but I do think what they would like to do is be able to sell beer on premise,” Muire said.

The change in the ordinance cuts out an extra step, meaning farmers or anyone operating an agritourism site now won’t have to get a temporary permit to sell alcohol or to have on-site drinking.

The idea was first brought up by the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority as a way to try to expand and strengthen the county’s agritourism sector which is a strong economic driver for the county and brings in thousands of visitors annually.

“We’re giving farmers that have had generational farms in Rowan County, well before any of us were here, the ability to not only protect the bonafide farm but expand their economic development activities,” said James Meacham, director of the tourism development authority, at the commissioners meeting.

“It doesn’t require any bonafide farm to do this. If they want to expand their agritourism operations it gives them the ability to do this,” Meachem said. “At the end of the day from our standpoint, it’s about providing options, supporting those farmers, helping them grow jobs, helping them grow revenue to support their businesses and keeping those generational farms in place.”

Examples of agritourism sites include farmers markets, Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches, hayrides, dairies and demonstration farms and tours. Agritourism sites also include any buildings or structures that are located on a farm that are used for public or private events such as weddings, receptions and meetings.