At last Monday's Aberdeen City Council meeting, two council members talked about beer drinking at the State Street Pub and Laundromat.
The laundry, at 120 N. State St., has a license to sell beer and wine coolers. Customers who want to enjoy the outdoors may sit at three tables on the north side of the business.
During a discussion about revising the city's alcohol laws, Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen said she is “concerned a little bit about the laundromat.” When she drives by, she sometimes sees “kind of a party outside,” at which people are holding beer. She pointed out that the laundry is in a residential neighborhood.
In April 2011, the City Council voted 7-1 to allow the laundry to add a pub. The approval was needed because the laundry is in a C-1 neighborhood commercial district.
Cory Johnson, who operates the business, says he doesn't allow people to drink outside, except for the patio area. The tables in that area are covered with umbrellas. Chairs surround two of the tables.
“It’s kind of a cool little area,” Johnson said.
People like sitting outside and having a beer while they smoke their cigarette, he said. But there are not a lot of people partying, he said.
"So as far as people outside partying, that's kind of an exaggerated statement,” he said.
Johnson said people are not allowed to drink in front of the business.
“If they do, they're sneaking, but I make it a point to tell people ‘not in the parking lot, not in front of the laundromat.’ I don't want that stigma to be involved with this place. It's a nice, quiet, relaxing pub. We're not a rammin’ jammin’ bar. It's pretty respectable.”
Johnson took over the laundry on Jan. 1, 2011. The pub opened in June 2011. Beer and wine coolers are sold from noon to closing seven days a week. The laundry is open around the clock. The pub stays open until at least 1 a.m.
“If there's people here, we stay open 'til 2,” he said.
Ron Wagner owns the building.
“He has nothing to do with the business,” Johnson said.
The business, Johnson said, is mainly a laundry.
“But we have attendants on duty. They keep the laundromat clean,” he said. The beer, food and pop are offered “to make it more of an enjoyable laundromat experience,” he said. “We do have some beer drinkers, but mainly the people that drink are people coming in to the laundromat. We have pool leagues and dart leagues. So we're trying to get the pub to support itself. But it's definitely a laundromat business with a pub.”
In an interview, Slaight-Hansen said she's concerned because the laundry and pub is in a residential neighborhood. When the business was presented to the council, it was going to be a situation, she said, where “the laundromat customers could have a beer or watch some TV while they were doing their laundry. And now it's being promoted as something other than that, and with it being in the residential neighborhood, I have a concern for those residents.” She wouldn't necessarily want “to have a bar next door to my home because there's a lot that goes along with a bar versus a laundromat.”
Slaight-Hansen's district ends at State Street, so she represents people across the street from the laundry and pub.
“I have not had concerns from neighbors, and I hope that it doesn't get to that point,” she said. “Quite honestly, I'd like to prevent it from getting to the point where people would have to call with concerns.”
Johnson said he has had not one complaint about noise. For about two months, the business had karaoke every Wednesday night.
“I kind of made sure that it couldn't be heard too far away,” he said.
Taking the garbage out one day, he heard music that was louder than the karaoke coming from a radio in a neighbor's garage.
Johnson said he monitors customers’ behavior to make sure it doesn't get out of hand. He says his customers are not loud.
“They're totally respectful. The people that come in here, I know pretty much all of them by name. Sometimes people start talking a little bit loud. That's the way life is. I go and tell them to be quiet and they apologize.”
Johnson admits that he doesn't mind seeing increasing beer sales. It is a business after all, he said. But as long as the business stays open, it will have a laundry, he said.
In late July, the State Street Pub and Laundromat celebrated its one-year anniversary with live music. The business has a happy hour Mondays through Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m. Ladies night is Monday through Wednesday from 7 p.m. to midnight.
Councilman Jeff Mitchell, who spoke briefly about the pub and laundry at Monday's City Council meeting, voted against the business adding a pub last year.
He said in an interview that the issue is, by now, “a little bit of water under the bridge. I personally don't feel that a laundromat in a residential area needs to serve beer and have happy hours,” he said.
“I didn't see the need for it. That's why we vote on things, though. And I hope it doesn't become an issue. I really don't. I mean, I'm not aware that it has, but I hope that it doesn't.”