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Wine walk proposed for Waynesville with ‘Sipping on the Square’ event
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (July 9, 2009) — Visitors to downtown Waynesville could have a new attraction next year: one designated day in which businesses around the square would serve wine to patrons as part of a city-sponsored event.

Tentatively titled “Sipping on the Square,” the proposed event would be modeled after a recent downtown wine tasting event held in the city of Cuba on its main street in partnership with St. James Winery. Councilwoman Luge Hardman, who chairs the Waynesville Economic Development Committee, said local businesswoman Virgie Mahan attended the Cuba event and plans to propose it to the Waynesville committee next month.

Hardman asked members of the committee at their Tuesday evening meeting if they liked the idea.

“The only problem, of course, is serving wine,” Hardman said. “We have unique people and unique businesses around the square and I didn’t know how the community would react to it, or how even the committee would react to this. I thought I’d bring the idea out this month and let Virgie come next month and talk to us and see what she had in mind.”

“What do you all think about the wine? Do you see any issues with that?” Hardman asked.

One of those downtown businessmen, local attorney David Lowe, questioned whether the Waynesville-St. Robert area has a younger age group than Cuba, due to the presence of the military at Fort Leonard Wood, that might be less inclined to attend a wine tasting event.

“If you’re serving a drink, why wouldn’t you serve food? Depending on the audience you’re focusing on, you broaden your draw,” Lowe said. “You’re talking older than 21 with that, and what kind of crowd are you going to get? Most of your military families have kids because it is a younger generation ... If you’re trying to draw them off the fort and get them down there or out of their homes and show them what’s going on in downtown Waynesville, you have to look at that.”

“So the wine doesn’t necessarily bother you?” Hardman asked.

“Well, it depends on how,” Lowe said. “What is the role of the businesspeople? The ideal situation on a main street where you have primarily retail and restaurants and such, they’re naturally going to want to be there. It’s different for a service business like ours. What do we have other than we can help, as we’ve done in the past with the downtown thing every winter? We can support by being there or giving land to use.”

Hardman said it might be possible to invite a cheesemaking company from Lebanon to attend as well to sell their products, and Lowe agreed that would help.

“I know they (St. James Winery) wouldn’t care; why would they care if you have a bigger event to draw more people?” Lowe said.

Councilman Butch O’Riley said he’d like to see the event, but agreed with Lowe that the event needs more than wine to be successful in Waynesville.

“Anything you can do to bring people downtown is a good idea. I just think you’re going to have to have more than people walking around and sipping on wine. There’s got to be some other draw to bring people,” O’Riley said.

O’Riley said there are other important differences between downtown Cuba and downtown Waynesville.

“In Cuba, there are a lot of places to get a little sandwich and stuff; places for people to eat,” O’Riley said. “I’m thinking it’s fine to have places for tasting wine here and there, but I guarantee there were places for them to go eat a sandwich.”

Lowe said a wine-based event in Waynesville won’t work well unless another food option is provided.

“That’s the problem we’ve got with us. There’s virtually no restaurants, only two, and there’s very limited retail,” Lowe said. “There needs to be more than just the wine sipping to draw them there.”

Councilwoman Twyla Cordry suggested combining the “Sipping on the Square” with Frogfest or another spring event when food vendors are downtown. Hardman said that’s possible, but noted that the Frogfest organizers have decided to move Frogfest later into May because rains have caused serious problems for the event in recent years.

Responding to questions from Pulaski County Courthouse Museum Curator Marge Scott about using the museum to sell wine, Hardman agreed that the county commission would probably need to be involved.

If the event is held, Hardman said it would require passage of a special city ordinance to allow liquor sales by businesses that don’t ordinarily sell alcohol. That was done in Cuba, Hardman said, and their ordinance could be copied and used by Waynesville.

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