City loses grip on ABC hours

By: By Mike Gellatly - [email protected]

LUMBERTON — Looking for late-night revelries? Lumberton might be the place to be.

Local laws restricting restaurants and bars in Lumberton from serving alcohol after 11 p.m. were struck down this week ,leaving the city only bound by state law, which sets 2 a.m. as the sales deadline.

The Lumberton City Council voted Monday to repeal two ordinances that regulated restaurants that serve alcohol because they overlapped with state law. As a result all conditional-use permits setting closing times for bars and restaurants are void.

“Right now … they were all under the one (permit) that said 11 p.m.,” City Attorney Holt Moore said. “The new ordinance will only apply in the future. All we can do in a way is try to be proactive. As the owner of the business, we’d hope they will try to do something as to security and public safety.”

The ordinance change began in April when a local establishment asked to extend its hours past 11 p.m. for events such as weddings and private parties. That establishment already was under the control of a previous conditional-use permit and so the Planning Board unanimously recommended that council reject the request.

However, after the Planning Board meeting, Ed Brooks, a Lumberton lawyer representing Jordan’s Bar and Grill, sent a letter to city leaders advising them that, in his opinion, Lumberton’s ordinance contradicted the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission law.

“That did raise the issue,” Moore said. “There’s a general legal proposition that if the state indicates that they want to control an area of law, local governments are supposed to stand back. Alcoholic beverages is one.”

City staffers are putting together a new ordinance that will come before the Planning Board next week. The board will then make a recommendation to City Council as to whether or not to adopt it. If council agrees, the new ordinance could go into effect after council’s July 12 meeting.

“Conditional-use permits are only required with restaurants with bars or clubs … We were almost getting in the alcohol regulation business,” Moore said. “We were trying to protect the city, but we don’t want to put the city at liability.”

Until the time that Lumberton enacts a new resolution, there are no local restrictions.

“We’ve got an ordinance that staff will be taking to the Planning Board next week, and since alcohol is kind of off limits, it will have to do with restaurants that stay open past 11 or 12,” Moore said. “It will probably have requirements for additional lighting and security requirements.”

Jordan’s Bar and Grill Manager Allison Mitchell told council members she had no plans to make the establishment a nightclub and was more than willing to abide by any security or safety requirements of the city. Mitchell was adamant that Jordan’s was not going to be the problem that other Lumberton establishments have been.

On Monday, Councilman Erick Hackeny referenced a resident who spoke against Jordan’s permit in May, saying “nothing good happens after midnight.”

Expects to adopt revamped ordinance soon

By Mike Gellatly

[email protected]

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly

Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly