Coffee shop gets aldermen’s approval

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A gourmet coffee shop and restaurant will likely be opening at the south end of Wrightsville Beach.

The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen voted unanimously during a continued meeting Thursday, Feb. 26 to grant South End Surf Shop Jeffrey DeGroote a conditional use permit to open The Post Coffee Shop/Restaurant in the currently vacant second floor of his surf shop.

Although Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair did not reopen the public hearing, he said he had received a number of phone calls and emails from south end residents in support of the proposed business.

The shop will be open all day, serving coffee, selling organic bottled juices, smoothies, baked goods, pre-made wraps, pizza and ice cream, as well as beer and wine by the bottle.

The CUP application was presented to the planning board Jan. 6 where it received unanimous support. When the permit request came before the aldermen Feb. 12, several residents spoke in opposition to the proposed shop during the public hearing.

They were concerned the town had no ability to stop the coffee shop from escalating into a bar scene because the sale of alcohol is controlled by state laws.

The meeting was recessed to allow town attorney John Wessell investigate the regulating power of the conditions the town placed on a CUP. When the board reconvened Feb. 26, Wessell said, after conversations with lawyers, he was confident the board could enforce any conditions it set on the permit.

In addition to a parking exception for eight spaces, the board set conditions mandating no outdoor music, no outdoor seating and no outdoor lighting other than for security purposes. The permit also states specific hours of operation, which coincide with those of the surf shop. The Post will open every day at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. every night except Saturday, when it will close at 10 p.m., and Sunday, when it will close at 7 p.m.

Alderwoman Elizabeth King asked DeGroote why it was necessary to stay open until 10 p.m. if he was operating a coffee shop.

“We want this to be a family business where the kids on the south end can come down and get ice cream…late at night after dinner and feel comfortable,” DeGroote responded. “We are not trying…to stay open to a later hour to capture alcohol business.”

DeGroote’s request, along with other recent project proposals, brought to light an underlying issue of residents’ mistrust in new development at the beach, the aldermen agreed. That wariness prevented the town from accruing viable, quality businesses, Alderwoman Lisa Weeks said.

Mayor Blair said the town could change that perception by more strictly enforcing the conditions set on each CUP to regulate businesses and restore residents’ confidence in development.

“The reason things on this beach have a tendency to stray from the original intent is because…the town has not stepped in to manage the conditions,” he said. “Something seems really simple on the surface but deep down there’s this fear that it’s going to get out of control, and I think the town has a responsibility to the residents to do something about that.”

email emmy@luminanews.com

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