After turning up in force of numbers at a August Weston Board of Aldermen meeting, the Weston Moonshiners Car Club’s brief banishment from Main Street ended.
At the Monday, Aug. 13 meeting, the board unanimously reversed a decision made in July to require the attendees of the monthly car shows to park in the city hall lot at the bottom of Main Street until after 5:30 p.m., when most downtown shops closed.
In July, with no members of the Moonshiners present, the board discussed complaints from Main Street business owners that Moonshiners were setting up before 3 p.m. and blocking parking spaces.
In previous years, the street was closed at 5:30 p.m., allowing the Moonshiners to set up after the stores closed. This year, in March, aldermen decided to close Main Street at 3 p.m. to give the car show presenters more time to set up and allow overlap of shoppers and car show attendees.
Alderman Joyce Priddy said in July that her informal poll of business owners on this new arrangement ended in mostly negative reviews. City clerk Kim Kirby suggested Moonshiners members park in the city hall parking lot until after 5:30 and then move their cars up to the 400 block to set up for the show. This suggestion was unanimously approved by the board, effective immediately and running through October — the end of the annual car show season.
The August board of aldermen meeting was standing-room-only with Moonshiner members and downtown merchants making up the bulk of the audience.
Mayor Cliff Harvey said since the July decision was made without any input from Moonshiners members and no advance warning, he felt the decision needed to be revisited. Harvey had previously allowed the Moonshiners’ July cruise night to continue at 3 p.m. until the board could again discuss the situation.
Jim Turnbull of the Moonshiners protested the suggested move to the city parking lot since it is mostly unlit and has no public restroom facilities.
“People come from all around to attend the shows,” Turnbull said. “Being kicked back to five was more than just a surprise.”
One Moonshiner said he and his wife come early specifically to shop, and stated the apparent hostility against the car club makes him feel unwelcome as a potential customer.
Main Street business owners also turned out in support of the Moonshiners.
“As downtown merchants, we appreciate what the Moonshiners do,” said Verna Kowertz, owner of the Weston Galleria, who was also critical of shops that chose to close on the days Moonshiners were in town. “I don’t see any reason why they should be down in the dark when the merchants who want to be open welcome them.”
Chamber president Chris Koonce said the Chamber board voted in support of the Moonshiners and a petition with more than 40 signatures had been circulated.
The board of aldermen reversed the July decision, but also suggested investigating the possibility of putting directional signs up to guide visitors to alternative parking when Main Street is closed.
The next Moonshiners Cruise Night will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 on Main Street.
The situation also led to the institution of a new policy — allowing downtown merchants to weigh in on Main Street closures before event permits are approved. The third annual Harvest Dinner, which benefits both Future Farmers of America and Boy Scouts, is the first event permit requested since this policy’s implementation. The harvest dinner is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16.
Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved the voluntary annexation of about 8 acres of land located behind Sharp’s Market on Highway 45. There were no protests to the annexation at a public hearing held Monday, July 30. Priddy also reported attorney Bob Shaw is working on the voluntary annexation of several additional properties.