Dickens proposes pub-brewery

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Restaurant owner and culinary arts teacher Chris Dickens has proposed a pub-brewery business in the Spring Hill community and is seeking licensing from the Pike County Commission.

Dickens, owner of Sweet Rack Rib Shack located on The Square in Downtown Troy and culinary arts teacher for Charles Henderson High School, appeared before the commission on Monday seeking a liquor license. He said he has received approval from State Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Ala., and William Thigpen, assistant administrator for the Alabama ABC.

Dickens hopes opening the business will help change Troy from a “suitcase college” and offer the entertainment and social venue needed for university students. Dickens said the establishment would be considered a “pub-brewery” with beer brewed off site to Dickens’ specifications and sold on draft within the restaurant.

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“I don’t want to brew beer,” Dickens said. “I don’t have time. This is what is considered an extract system that is brewed in North Carolina to my specifications and then shipped down and put into 150-gallon vats. There will be no beer brewed out there, but it’s exactly the same as draft beer.”

Dickens said he had hoped to receive an exception to Sunday liquor sales in Pike County by creating memberships for the business. However, after the idea was met with pushback, Dickens pulled the request. Dickens said now he hopes the commission will grant his request for a liquor license and declare the Spring Hill Community an “economic depressed area.”

“We aren’t trying to beat the system here,” Dickens said. “We aren’t trying to bring lawlessness to the county. I have a proven record for running a business. I understand that we might meet some oppositions with this proposal, but I think this is a good thing for Pike County … There is not another restaurant or entertainment venue that can offer something like this.”

Dickens told commissioners he had also spoken to Troy University representatives who were “on board” with the restaurant and entertainment venue.

“We already met with the university about possibly training their hospitality students,” Dickens said. “They don’t get any culinary training with the university. They’ve said that anything that will benefit the university, they will be on board with.”

While it was just the first hearing of the request process, Dickens said his biggest push for the project was to help keep the university’s population in Pike County when at all possible.

“We don’t want this to be a suitcase college anymore,” Dickens said. “There is going to be a bus out there for a shuttle. We have to have private security out there, as well. That’s part of it. We’ve talked to (Troy Police Chief) Jimmy Ennis and to Sheriff (Russell) Thomas. We can’t have city officers or county sheriff deputies out there, but Elba and Opp have already called. …They can’t have their department names, but they can be out there with badges and firearms.”

A decision on the license likely will be made at the next commission meeting, which will take place Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

In other items of business, Administrative Assistant Harry Sanders reported that the county had received a total savings of $31,390.01 since becoming a part of the ACCA Self-Insurance Program.

“We entered into a safety incentive program several years ago with the association to number one, increase the safety of our workers, decrease the amount of accidents and decrease the annual compensation amount for insurance,” Sanders said. “As you can see, from this report we’ve been very successful.”

The commission also awarded the bid for the Pike County Courthouse’s security services to Twin City, which is the current security service provider for the county. Sanders said the commission used both Level 1 and Level 2 security, which when costs were added together resulted in Twin City being the apparent low bidder for the position.

The commission also approved a resolution that will move the voting precinct from the Academy Street School to the Troy Public Library located on Elm Street.