LUMBERTON — The City Council is concerned about a request from a local restaurant that serves alcohol that it be allowed to stay open three hours longer at night, and at least one council member on Monday was upset by a letter from the establishment’s lawyer, saying it had a threatening tone.
The Planning Board recommended that the county deny a request from Jordan’s Bar and Grill at 3555-A North Roberts Ave. for a conditional-use permit that would allow it to stay open beyond the 11 p.m. that its current permit allows. The request then went to the council, which held a public hearing on Monday.
During the hearing, Ed Brook, an attorney representing the restaurant, argued that state law was on his client’s side, and clashed with Lumberton’s zoning ordinance. Owners of the bar want to be allowed to open until 2 a.m. and to host special events, such as wedding receptions.
Brooks had sent a letter to council asking that it approve the permit. The tone of the letter, however, did not sit well with members of council.
“When I received the letter from your attorney, I had to take pause on that, I don’t like to be threatened,” Councilman Chris Howard said. “When you start dealing with the whole council like that … it appeared to me that you were threatening the body of government.”
The business has continued to violate the terms of the conditional-use permit, Councilman Erich Hackney said. Hackney said he has been told by the Lumberton Police Department that the business has stayed open after its 11 p.m. closing time.
Brooks denied that, saying that his clients have only been cited once and that citation was eventually dismissed. Brooks produced the receipts from the bar on a night in question that he said demonstrated that while the establishment was open beyond 11 p.m., it had not served alcohol past that time.
Marvin Thompson, who lives a quarter mile from the establishment, spoke against the proposal.
“My father told me nothing good happens after 12 o’clock,” Thompson said.
Allison Mitchell manages the restaurant and insisted Monday that she had no plans for the establishment to become a nightclub. Mitchell said she was willing to hire security to ensure safety.
Councilman Burnis Wilkins said that he had talked with Alcohol Law Enforcement agents from several cities around the state after the issue came up during the Council Policy Committee meeting last week.
“It’s my belief that the Planning Board didn’t have all the facts. I would like to see it go back before the Planning Board,” Wilkins, a former ALE agent, said. “I’m seeing the possibility of a conflict between the law and the ordinance.”
Hackney made a motion to continue the public hearing until the June council meeting to allow time to get input from the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
In other business, the council:
— Presented Alanni Jacobs of Lumberton with the Distinguished Service Award for bravery. While on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Alanni saw her brother had fallen into a swimming pool and was on its bottom. Alanni dove in and rescued her younger sibling.
— Passed its hazard mitigation plan on its first reading and will hold a public hearing June 12.
— Granted Management Information Systems’ request to shift $30,000 from its capital fund to purchase additional security software rather than new servers.
— Scheduled a workshop for May 24 to discuss the budget that will take effect July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
— Reduced the speed limit on West 23rd Street between McMillan Avenue and Elm Street from 35 to 25 mph.
— Extended the Housing Authority of Lumberton’s lease at 407 N. Sycamore St., commonly known as Old Catholic School.
— Approved Community Revitalization Funds in the amount of $400 for Oakridge Association; $1,000 for 911 Day; $1,200 for Southeastern Family Violence Center; $190 for Lumberton High School; and $400 for the Wycliffe Homeowners Association.
— Granted the owners of property at 610 Old Whiteville Road a conditional-use permit to run a day care.
— Rezoned 307 E. 12th St. so it can be used as a residential building.
— Awarded Columbus Utilities, the low bidder, a contract to repair a water main on VFW Road at a cost of $76,875.
— Granted The Wooten Company a contract to to repair a sewer collapse on West Fifth Street.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1983 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly