After more than two years of selling guns, Bullets & Beans will continue to operate without being able to deliver what the second part of its name suggests—coffee.
The Hamilton Town Council on Monday night opted to continue discussions about shop owner Kevin Jones’ request to start selling coffee in the 2,700-square-foot building that the Farmers & Merchants Bank used to call home. During a public hearing on the request, the council heard comments from four residents opposed to issuing a special use permit to allow coffee sales and nine in favor.
Mayor David Simpson said the Town Council needs to consider several factors, including concerns about parking and hours of operation, before it takes action on Jones’ application.
“There’s a lot of questions unanswered,” Simpson said. “We need to look into it further.”
The council also pushed back a vote on the shop’s requested parking waiver, which, if approved, would allow Jones to open the coffee component of his shop by paying a $2,550 fee to eliminate the need for three parking spaces.
The Town Council and Jones will discuss matters further in a special public meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 25 at the town office.
While the shop opened in summer 2016 to sell guns and provide firearm safety and self-defense classes, Jones has never been allowed to sell coffee because of the town’s zoning regulations in the C-2 Retail Sales & Service Commercial District, which prohibits food sales in buildings adjacent to residences without a special use permit. The district’s rules do allow for firearm sales, treating it as a normal retail sale.
According to the town’s zoning ordinance, the zoning administrator can authorize a parking waiver when an application for non-residential use is located on a property within 300 feet of a parking lot owned and maintained by the town. Bullets & Beans is located less than 150 feet from the town office parking lot.
Warren McCrary, the shop’s next-door neighbor, was one of those who expressed his opposition to the shop’s ability to sell coffee, noting that he’s already seen a half dozen Bullets & Beans customers park in his driveway.
“It’s a safety issue. It’s an inconvenience issue,” he said. “There’s just no reason to open a restaurant.”
Georjan Overman, a former business owner in the town, said that customers typically park as close to the business they’re visiting as they can. She said this could pose a safety concern for drivers rounding the turn on Colonial Highway.
“Is this going to support public health and safety—I don’t think so,” she said. “It’s not safe.”
Caleb Kershner, Bullets & Beans’ attorney, also spoke at the meeting and pointed out that Blackberry’s Coffee Shop & Marketplace in Purcellville had no parking spaces—and no problems—when it opened.
“This is not Dunkin’ Donuts, this is not Starbucks,” he said. “This is not going to have the kind of traffic everybody’s worried about.”
Del. Dave LaRock (R-33) spoke in favor of the shop’s request, arguing that while McCrary has a valid concern about parking issues, the worst thing that a government can do is overregulate business. “I think [allowing for Jones to sell coffee is] the kind of organic activity that continues the tradition of the town where you can go thrive,” he said.
Councilman Michael Snyder was one of those who spoke against approving the permit and waiver. In a recent statement, Snyder argued that because the shop does not have enough onsite parking, customers would have to park along Colonial Highway, which could block students walking to and from Hamilton Elementary School.
He also noted that shop customers who use the town’s parking spaces would have to cross Colonial Highway in an area that has no crosswalks—the closest being 1,050 feet to the west and 750 feet to the east. “Death or serious injury for a cup of coffee is not a good tradeoff or consistent with public safety,” he wrote.
Jones said that he has no plans to open his shop in time for the morning commute and that his coffee sales would be targeted toward customers waiting to have background checks completed. He said that he would probably open at 9 or 10 a.m. on his days of operation, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Jones also said that many residents and visitors already cross the highway in that same area, many of them parking in the Hamilton Baptist Church parking lot and crossing over to shop at the Mosby Center.
Since early 2016, Bullets & Beans has sparked concern from residents in and around the town, many opposed to allowing gun sales less than 500 feet from an elementary school campus.
Despite the uproar, Jones was able to open his shop in mid-summer 2016. He invites anyone who’s skeptical about or opposed to his operations to visit the shop and see for themselves what it’s all about.
“I don’t really understand the disdain,” he said. “Anybody is more than welcome to come in.”