In a presentation to more than 20 area neighbors, members of the state’s ABC and ALE divisions last Thursday discussed the role they play in maintaining public safety and welfare throughout North Carolina.
The group was brought in to the Atlantic CAC to discuss a new nightclub opening the area, the Hawg Pen. The club is located off Hodges Avenue between Six Forks and Atlantic, in an area with several other nightclubs.Renee Cowick from the ABC Commission explained that there are a lot of legal hurdles and administrative obstacles to address before having a club’s ABC license revoked.
Cowick explained that it can take about a week from the date of the incident before the chairman of the ABC Commission signs an order to temporarily suspend the business’ license. This only occurs in the event of extreme cases, such as a murder or other violent incident happening on the grounds of the club.
Some neighbors expressed concerns over certain bars in the area — Hawg Pen not among them; in fact, many were unaware the club’s existence — playing music outdoors, which could be heard from their residences.
Officer CC Gay with the Raleigh Police Department, who oversees complaints against bars and nightclubs, said the best solution was for residents to dial 911, which would create a documented trail of complaints against a business that continuously flaunts the rules.
“That way it may warrant a citation the next time someone goes out there,” he said.
Gay also stated that it was highly unlikely any businesses in the area had an outdoor amplified noise permit that would allow outdoor music anyway.“Most outdoor noise permits are downtown,” Gay said. “Short of music exiting the club when the doors open, there’s no sound allowed outside.”
Eric Hill, with the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement agency, told residents that he was assigned tot he 27604 zip code, which includes not only bars and nightclubs, but any business that has a license to sell alcohol, such as a convenience store.
As a result of citizen complaints or law enforcement observation, Hill’s agency often conducts operations whereby they catch businesses who may be violating various laws, such as selling alcohol to minors or offering illicit substances in their stores.Hill said they also visit bars and nightclubs to ensure they are following the state’s various laws pertaining to alcohol, including one that requires businesses to purchase their spirits at above-retail costs.
Cowick noted that some business owners attempt to get around this by purchasing alcohol in a retail location and refilling their official, tax-stamped bottles at the bar with it.
She said that agents don’t have time to visit every bar every day and make sure the rules are being followed; the state, she said, relies on complaints and information from citizens when it comes to enforcing these laws.
Shut It Down
Councilor Odom, who sits on the Law & Public Safety Committee and whose district includes the Atlantic CAC, was also present at last week’s meeting.
Odom noted that when he first came on to council, he was behind an effort to shut down a number of nuisance nightclubs.
“Back in ’94/’95, [the nightclubs] caught a lot of my attention,” Odom said.
“I tried, being a businessman it was hard on me to close a business. I know how hard it is to make it work.”
However, due to the nuisance several of these locations were causing for nearby residents, Odom worked to have the city adopt a three strikes policy, which would have been illegal. However, Odom says, the city still managed to find a way to shut down particularly bothersome businesses.
“Kamikaze’s [Nightclub], we closed it down because of parking,” Odom said.
“The city of Raleigh says you have to have so much parking; actually they were leasing parking from a guy next door. We talked that guy into not renewing the least.
“There’s sneaky ways of doing it from time to time, but if there’s an issue you have to keep an eye on it — stuff happens real quickly.”