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Lexington to create new bar ordinance

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LEXINGTON, N.C. -- At High Rock Outfitters, owner Chris Phelps has seen several bars and nightlife options open in the six years he's been there.

"It's been really nice to see the growth," said the bar owner.

Much of that growth he says happened after a 2015 referendum passed, allowing bars in Lexington to sell beer without having a liquor license.

"The growth increased dramatically after that," he said.

There are now three bars uptown plus another five bars throughout Lexington, including bars, wine bars, and pubs.

City leaders want to make sure the businesses are all operating under the same, standard set of rules.

Director of Business and Community Development Tammy Absher says currently bars, private clubs and other alcohol-serving venues are regulated separately.

Absher is working on an ordinance which would put all the venues under one category, all following the same rules.

"We just want to make sure there are some rules in place that will apply equally to everyone and that will prevent anything happening that will be a detriment," Absher said.

The ordinance hasn't been drafted yet but Absher says it will have guidelines on smoking areas, trash pickup, how far one bar can be from another and sidewalk usage.

Absher says at least six people have contacted her about opening new bars in the city in the past six months.

"The prudent thing to do is to make sure we have the regulations in place before all of those start opening," she said.

Phelps says the ordinance is a good idea.

"That gives everyone the same standards to work off of,” Phelps said. “Everyone knows what they're getting into."

Once the ordinance is drafted, Absher says it will go to the planning board for approval. After that, it will be sent to the city council.