The owner of the Bullets & Beans gun shop in Hamilton will have to wait three more weeks to find out if he can start selling coffee—something he’s tried to do for more than two years.
After an hour-long work session Tuesday morning, the Hamilton Town Council agreed to vote Oct. 15 on a proposal to grant a 6-month trial period that would allow the gun shop to sell coffee in the town’s Retail Sales & Service Commercial District. If the vote goes through, the shop’s owner, Kevin Jones, will be given the chance to prove that his coffee sales won’t negatively affect the town.
“This sounds like a fair proposal to me,” Mayor David Simpson said. “If it doesn’t work, then we have the ability to say all bets are off.”
At the meeting, council members asked Jones and his attorney, Caleb Kershner, questions about deliveries, utilities, hours of operation and parking.
With only one parking space for the shop, Jones said patrons could use the Hamilton Baptist Church parking lot, for which he has written permission from the church to use.
He also plans to open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, which would not conflict with church services on Wednesdays evenings and Sundays. Jones said that if he does open on Sundays, he wouldn’t do so until the church’s 300-person congregation has left the lot.
Whitney Kershner, the shop’s coffee sales manager, said that she could set deliveries up on a single day each week and have the driver park in the shop’s parking space, and not on the street, to avoid congestion.
She also said that the shop would not impact the town’s utility system, since she plans to use Deer Park water jugs to make the coffee. The only food the shop plans to sell will be baked goods, which will be made from frozen dough.
Controversy surrounding the gun shop arose in 2016, when Jones bought the nearly 3,000-square-foot former bank building to sell guns and provide firearm safety and self-defense classes. Although the Hamilton Elementary School PTA at the time protested the opening, arguing that gun sales within 1,000 feet of a school zone were unlawful and unsafe, Jones opened that summer.
Jones has been restricted from selling coffee ever since, however, because the town’s zoning ordinance prohibits food sales in buildings adjacent to residences in that district.
During a public hearing earlier this month, nine residents spoke in favor of the shop’s coffee sales. A common concern among the four who spoke against it dealt with parking. Because the property has only one parking spot, residents argued that customers would not only clog the roadways, but would be forced to park at the town office and unsafely cross Colonial Highway in an area without a crosswalk.
The Town Council at that hearing pushed back its vote on the coffee sales permit so that it could get the answers it did today.
Jones said he’s hopeful that the trial period will play in his favor. “I think we can meet that pretty easily,” he said.