Partner in scuttled Lexington beer garden running for Town Council

Posted 2/8/23

One of the partners who ultimately scuttled plans to bring a beer garden to Lexington’s Main Street has announced a run for a seat on Town Council.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Partner in scuttled Lexington beer garden running for Town Council


One of the partners who ultimately scuttled plans to bring a beer garden to Lexington’s Main Street has announced a run for a seat on Town Council.

Following the resignation earlier this week of Council Member Steve Baker, who is moving out of state, Gavin Smith said he will seek the open seat. He will formally kick off his campaign with an event at the Sterling Bridge Neighborhood Clubhouse on Feb. 11.

According to Lexington Municipal Clerk Becky Hildebrand, the special election to fill Baker’s at-large seat for the remainder of his current term, which expires in 2025, will be held May 2, with filing opening Feb. 24 and continuing until March 6. 

Smith, his husband and a third business partner were behind the Navy Yard on Main beer garden that was slated for the corner of Church and West Main in downtown Lexington. Though the business defeated a legal challenge to its beer and wine license by the neighboring St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, the beer garden was ultimately abandoned.

The candidate told the Chronicle that the church appealed the decision, which would have extended the legal process, and the time that would have taken coupled with mounting costs to open the business due to inflation — he said the cost of the project had gone up by nearly $400,000 by the time they decided to walk away — made the beer garden unfeasible.

Smith, who has lived in Lexington for two years and owns his own public and government relations business, told the Chronicle that the experience trying to bring Navy Yard to Lexington was a factor in his decision to run for office.

“The outpouring of support that we got from the community and the Town of Lexington when we were trying to open Navy Yard further solidified my love for the community,” said the 30-year-old who grew up in the Red Bank area and graduated from White Knoll High School.

“A lot of people say, ‘Are you running for the Town Council to solve the issues that you faced?’ And the answer to that is, sure,” Smith said. “There was certainly red tape that we faced trying to open, but the major issue that we faced related to our beer, wine and liquor license is unfortunately not a town issue. That’s a state issue. So the town really has no legislative or executive authority on changing that.”

One thing he feels town leadership could have done was help mediate the conflict between the beer garden and the church.

“I wish that we would have been brought together by local officials, local leaders in the community, Navy Yard people and the church people, to say, ‘Hey, we’re part of the same community. How can we resolve this before it reaches court?’” Smith said.

Among the issues that Smith said are priorities is cutting down on the red tape prospective businesses face when looking to open up within the town, but he also emphasized that finding ways to preserve historic structures in the face of growth is important. He added that managing traffic is a perennially crucial issue for Lexington and that he believes his experience working in state and local government will aid him in addressing these issues.

That government work included a stint as press secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor, and Smith worked for the presidential campaign and served on the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for former President Donald Trump.

Asked about running for office in traditionally conservative Lexington as a gay man, Smith said he isn’t about identity politics and he’s running because he believes he’s qualified to do the job.

“That issue came up when we were doing the Navy Yard, and a lot of people suspected that maybe that's why the church was protesting our license,” Smith said. “And the town really rallied behind us. You know, all three owners of the Navy Yard were gay, me and my husband and then one of our best friends. The town really rallied behind that and no one really ever made a mention of that. that never came up to us. In fact, most people were very supportive and said that they didn't care about that.”

He added that the partners in the abandoned business have now built a very good relationship with the church and that "there were ways that we could have handled it better on both sides."

St. Stephen’s has declined multiple requests from the Chronicle to discuss its legal challenge of Navy Yard’s beer and wine license.

lexington town council, gavin smith, navy yard beer garden, steve baker


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here