WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — After more than six months of back-and-forth between attorneys, Wrightsville Beach politicians and an entourage represented by big wave surfer Mason Barnes, plans have been approved to reincarnate the vacant Causeway Market property on Harbor Island with a new business.
The property at 520 Causeway Drive was long used as a convenience store, and the new establishment, Bevvy Mart, extends that pattern with new-age spin. “It will look like Venice on Wrightsville Beach, essentially,” said Chris Batten, the Bespoke Coffee founder and one of Barnes’ business partners, in a previous interview.
The Bevvy Mart concept has floated around town channels since January, working its way through various gatekeeping steps ever since. While Barnes and Batten — along with Batten’s wife Michaela and their attorney Grady Richardson — pitched their vision for an upscale, eclectic market, town leaders simultaneously worked to nail down various loose ends of concern.
On-the-spot negotiations occurred Thursday evening at the board of aldermen meeting, the final episode of Bevvy Mart’s approval process. Seating was a major sticking point; wary of approving an establishment that could attract loitering or noise, town leaders took issue with Michaela’s previous testimony that stated a desire for 21 seats in the proposed shop.
Michaela and Richardson, the attorney, had whittled down that number to 15 by the time of Thursday’s meeting, though town leaders urged them to consider placing only eight seats at the Bevvy Mart. The two parties eventually settled on a maximum of 12 seats. This wing of the conversation lasted more than 30 minutes.
At another point, the aldermen went into closed session mid-meeting to consult with Brian Edes, town attorney. During the break, locals gathered in town hall chatted with Barnes and his business team. Susan Bullock, head of the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce, firmly stood in the Bevvy Mart’s corner.
“I swear, we create our own problems,” Bullock remarked to a man in attendance, while town leaders heard advice from their attorney in another room. “It’s hard to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
The aldermen emerged with edits to the conditions for the conditional use permit that the Bevvy Mart was required to obtain before starting work on the building, which has been in the group’s possession since last October.
Following the closed session, they removed two conditions related to alcohol sales at the location, but the final go-ahead was still clear that only to-go beer and wine sales will be permitted — no on-site consumption allowed.
Previously, Batten described Bevvy Mart as akin to if “Whole Foods was shrunk down to the size of a footprint.” There will be a coffee bar, smoothie offerings and exotic products lining the shelves. Barnes, who was approached by Guinness World Records after surfing a massive wave in Portugal last year, scouted products for the shop on a previous surfing trip to Brazil.
Among the conditions required of the Bevvy Mart team, there cannot be skateboarding at the site, onsite cooking nor outdoor music. If three total noise complaints are called in, the establishment’s permit will be reviewed.
Eventually, the board gave the team unanimous approval. The Bevvy Mart crew shook hands with town leaders on their way out of town hall and exchanged thank yous.
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