Update on Marines being served in Wilmington bars

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Submitted: Tue, 08/12/2008 - 9:12pm
Updated: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 4:07pm

They serve our country, but some service members say some downtown Wilmington bars won't serve them. About a month ago, a group of Marines lodged a complaint against the city, and a number of bars, complaining they were not being allowed in. Today Marines, city officials, and downtown bar owners met to discuss the issue. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said the confusion is over an old state law that requires club patrons to carry a membership in order to get in. Marines say that law only seems to apply to them. U.S. Marine Kevin Nicholson said, "It's a simple matter where you can be in line. Three civilians in front of you, three civilians in back of you and you're the only person that's asked for a membership card." Local bar owners would not go on camera but said that Marines are often violent and more difficult to control when they are intoxicated. John Hinnant of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated says today's meeting established a relationship between downtown bar owners and Camp Lejeune. He said the city and Camp Lejeune will work together to get rid of the membership law, and come up with a way to hold Marines accountable when they misbehave.


  • GuestMarine says:

    I think Wilmington has forgotten about there own problems Marines are the same as any other young man or woman out there we are just able to fight better. We bust our butts in the sand for six months to a year or more so you can go to your precious bar any night you want then we come down there with our wives, girlfriends, or buddies just looking to relax and get away from our every day life. Me and my wife usually stay at the Hilton and go pub hopping with friends some bars I have not been allowed in and others that I have gotten in the bouncers follow me arround like I have a bomb straped to me. I know young Marines sometimes have chips on there shoulders I work with them every day but what young adult doesn’t these are College age men and women deffending your country that might not of had the chances to attend college like your precious UNCW kids but are working hard to earn there way through College. Just like another person said on here most Fast Food Restraunt robberies in Wilmington are comitted by Black Males so whats next McDonalds and Burger King not letting African Americans in to there establishments. People keep asking “they dont have any bars or places to hang out in Jacksonville” that answer is no not any decent ones and like me and my wife most of the Marines and there families cant wait to get back home or just get out of this Hell Hole of Jacksonville so we go to the nearest get aways possible and why would you complain anyways of someone with guaranteed revenue coming into your establishment and spending money 95% of these Marines will drop $60-$100 in a bar in a night then get a room at a local hotel because we are big on not drinking and driving plus you can not take a date back to your barracks. There is so much money for Wilmington to make from Marines. All a Marine is. Is a Person like yourself who has been taught to kill the enemy and protect his country from terrorist, foreign and domestic so dont be a threat to him or her and you have no problem they are there just to have a good time like yourself. Its like taking you little Chiuaua to the dog park you let them play but you still keep him on the opposite side of the park from the Pitt Bull until you find out the Pitt Bull is actualy friendly and will get along with other dogs,

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    A few servicemen getting a little rowdy on liberty is a recent invention, right? Never happened before, never happens outside Wilmington, I suppose?

    No one is justifying idiotic behavior while on liberty. My point is that idiotic behavior by a few does not justify wholesale bans for all.

    Go get a high-and-tight and see how you’re welcomed downtown.

    Banning all Marines because a few have caused trouble is absolutely no different than banning all Blacks because a few of them caused problems. Now, we’d never think of allowing them to ban Blacks, but as long as it’s “just Marines,” it’s okay.

    If a Marine gets out of line on liberty, it’s his buddies’ obligation to get him out of there and get him back to base. A lot of times, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do when the rescuer is suddenly smacked and forced to defend himself.

    Every one of those Marines has a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major ready to hand him his rear-end and make life miserable for the next few months when he acts irresponsibly. He also has a Commanding Officer ready to take away money and stripes, if needed. Assault is against the UCMJ whether a Marine is in the barracks at Camp LeJeune or in a bar in downtown Wilmington.

    So you hammer the offenders. I have no problem with that. But you DON’T bar all Marines. That’s no different than any other form of bigotry and predjudice.

  • Guest42111 says:

    No, it has to do with the fact they do volunteer to fight for our country. I volunteer in this community, at my church, and at a local optimist club, but I do not ask for special treatment or benefits for it. These men and women fight for our country and they get my admiration, but they have to realize there is a difference in what they are expected to do in their job and what they are expected to do in public. It’s called self control. They are required to have it at work and everyone is should have it outside of work.

  • Guest7969 says:

    Back the train up here…I served 20 YEARS in the US Military….there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for a serviceman to go into a town and act like an idiot. They are on DUTY 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK! When they are in public it is their DUTY to be respectful and represent their country with honor. I understand that not all military guys coming down here are trouble makers, SOME of them are though. People DO respect them for what they are doing, however, a servicemen needs to remember that he represents not only his branch of service but his COUNTRY when he is in the public eye. IF I had a bar, I would make it private too…to keep the rif-raf out…WHOEVER that might be!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    So, by using your idea, since the majority of fast-food robberies committed in this town are by young Black men, we should be able to ban Blacks from fast-food restaurants, right?

    Next time you see a Marine, thank him for laying it on the line so you have the freedom to be predjudiced.

  • j says:

    First of all I would like to say that I support the Military and think they are excellent people for serving our Country. But they DO cause problems in groups and they know it.

    I went to the meeting and could not believe some of what I saw and heard. The military are hiding behind the 1% that have been charged downtown. There are two reasons for the LOW 1%. Bars don’t report problems because they will get a bad reputation and be shut down by the City. But even more important in this scenario is that the Local Police DO NOT CHARGE MILITARY unless it is really, really bad and witnesses force them to. I hear this from police officers all the time. And to a certain level I agree with them not charging them. But don’t use a low inaccurate number of incidents to try to build a case for yourself. Military in groups will NOT BACK DOWN PERIOD!!! and that causes problems in bars and other areas of town.

    Bar owners have the right to admit or deny anybody they want. It isn’t discrimination it is common sense. Keep the people out that are going to destroy your club or hurt your employees and other customers. Not to mention keeping your business open instead of getting a bad reputation for fights. MILITARY = FIGHTS. PERIOD!!!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    You will undoubtedly be castigated and shunned for telling the truth, that it’s often the locals who start these things.

    Years ago, I recall watching a young Marine who had been pressed to the Popeye point (“Dat’s all I can stanz, I can’t stanz n’more!”) take on three locals and send all three to the hospital.

    Absolutely nothing happened to them beyond their broken bones and missing teeth.

    The Marine was reduced from Lance Corporal to PFC, fined a months pay, and placed on restriction (house arrest) for a month.

    I’m 100% in favor of nailing a Marine to the wall when he’s out of line, but to paint with a broad brush, as you stated, doesn’t work and causes hostility.

    Quite honestly, I though we had advanced past the point of blaming and discriminating against ALL of any group for the actions of a few.

  • shamrock says:

    I’m thinking I might add some “mature” (as in age LOL) input here. I am 44, a woman, a mother and I love live music and the energy of downtown on weekend nights. There are probably very few bars/clubs in downtown Wilmington that I have not been to at least once. I am also a people watcher.
    Yes, it is true that Marines & the military in general seem to travel in “packs”. What is the reason? Well, they leave base together so it makes sense that they bar hop together. Many a night I have seen large groups of young Marines in a bar and they just hung together and laughed and had fun, and yes, became loud and rowdy as the beer flowed. I have seen the crap they take just for being Marines (hence the reason many of them wear caps or hats to hide their buzz cuts) I’ve seen Marines attacked verbally and physically many times.
    a. for talking to a local girl i.e.: who has been flirting and sending one of them drinks…the local guys do not like that
    b. one walking to the rest room and a gang of non-military cat calling at them on their way (yeah, if it escalates, the pack will defend their friend)
    c. The same thing happened when a group passed where my friends and I were waiting to get into a club, they were taunted by the “decent non-military” in the line. When the group slowed to hear what was being said the bouncers walked out and told them to get on their way…not a word was said to the scum that taunted them.

    I have more than once stepped in to cool a Marines temper when he was being pushed. A free night out, booze, being on edge b/c they expect trouble from locals, and then being the target of insults and taunts, definately leads to trouble. I have stepped in and more often than not, after a lot of reasoning and breaking through the alcohol and emotion, it ends with the young Marines saying, “why are they pushing me into a fight, I just want to listen to music and hang out with my friends”
    c. When the cops are en masse’ standing on the corners at closing times with their “jail on wheels”, most of the groups I see them iteracting with are not Marines, but large groups of underage kids, local kids & those from UNCW.

    Yes, any group traveling together is a bit intimidating, but everyone deserves respect and unfortunately some people just think that Marines are fair game and push them. If any other young man was pushed like that, he also would react and his friends would come out of the woodwork to defend him. Maybe if we stopped being on the defensive about them and actually watched what was occurring under our noses, we could identify what sets the problems off and deal with that.
    Sweeping a wide brush rarely works, it creates hostility and defensiveness.
    My thoughts on memberships… 1/2 and 1/2…I have had friends visiting, they wanted to go out but I didn’t and they call me b/c they cannot get into a club to hear a band b/c they are not members, so I have to drag myself out and go with them. I have also been to membership bars when I was asked to sign a guest book and yet others behind me were turned away. Guess my friends and I look safe.

  • Das Weibstück says:

    The article is about BARS, did you even read it?

  • GuestNONPLUSSED says:

    Oh, my? What could we possibly be thinking? Crimes in downtown Wilmington NEVER happen.

  • GuestTiredGuest says:

    “When they get out of town they are routinely arrested, but it’s pretty much an in and out thing with several of them being arrested fairly often (more than I wish to count), as this poster inaccurately posted, they do not cause the problems that have bar owners worrying.”
    My post is not inaccurate. Rather than bar owners, it’s folks like me who (used to) go out in downtown Wilmington AND USE THE SIDEWALKS AND STREETS AS INTENDED who are accosted by the derelict homeless, and the Wilmington police seem powerless to stop it. (I came to the conclusion long ago that they don’t care.) My point is this: the fact that Wilmingtonians don’t like Marines in the downtown area isn’t really about Marines, it’s about the fact that, in general, downtown Wilmingtonians (whether bar owners, restaurateurs, shopkeepers, or city managers of any sort) are a bunch of posing dilettantes and dabblers who aren’t very good, as a group, at managing a historic tourist district. What’s needed are FEWER bars and MORE classier attractions, like those in….well….Savannah, where they know how to run a historic downtown district.

  • Das Weibstück says:

    Hate to burst your Savannah bubble but my niece lives there and a month ago while leaving one of the bars you mention with 3 friends she was MUGGED and beaten by 6 local thugs. She has to go to court next week and hopefully put them all in jail. She is 5’1 and weighs 120 pounds, there were 6 of them. Same situation a few years ago when that girl was murdered while downtown with 5 other friends……..NICE place huh?

  • Guest7969 says:

    YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME….LOL Savannah? I have been to Savannah NO LESS than 8 times to see friends…and TRUST ME…it’s NOT happening in downtown Savannah…LOL I hope your going down there to be a comedian…cause your funny! OBTW…don’t let the door hit ya when you cross the NC border….BaBYE!!

  • Guest00000000 says:

    I won’t. And thanks for the well wishes. You’re a fine example of a true Wilmingtonian.

  • Guest00000000 says:

    And don’t forget the airmen and soldiers who are actually IN Savannah.

  • vj says:

    i think what was being said was that savannah embraces the marines that drive down from beaufort, sc unlike here in wilmington were they are rejected.

  • Guest44 says:

    Glad you love Savannah, BUT YOU REALLY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!!!! My sister do you hear me my sister was brutually attacked by your wonderful military….two of them to be exact and then because they are so honorable they threw her in a wooded area like a piece of garbage…so please speak about what you know and keep quiet about things that you know nothing about. Oh did I mention she has already gone through three surgeries to put her face back together….thanks honorable men!

  • GuestXYZ says:

    Bar? Who mentioned a bar?

  • Guest911 says:

    I work in the 911 Center and am very familiar with the problems downtown as both a visitor and someone who has to directly deal with the aftermath. While the “derelict homeless” cause problems routinely downtown, most of the bar owners and regulars know how to deal with the problem ones. When they get out of town they are routinely arrested, but it’s pretty much an in and out thing with several of them being arrested fairly often (more than I wish to count), as this poster inaccurately posted, they do not cause the problems that have bar owners worrying. Typically active between 9pm-12am, they tend to be long gone by the hellish closing times.

    It’s this 1:30-3:00am bullrush of every intoxicated person hitting the street at relatively the same time that causes the havoc and on some nights near riots. Comparing this summer to last summer though, the calls are down at closing. Are the bar owners doing something right, is tourism down (maybe its the gas prices), or has the “psuedo-banning” of the military really made an impact?

    The police could possibly do more, but there simply aren’t enough of them. Arresting one person downtown means one less police officer to keep the area under control. If there are only ten officers, now there are nine. Some nights, there are more fights going on than officers we can get them to, and no officer wants to goto a fight alone, as the drunken yahoos often have no qualms of attacking the officer. You have to work very hard to get yourself arrested downtown.

    The real problems are more than you can honestly put a finger on to fix but the short list is:

    – over serving by the bars
    – climate of irresponsible behavior
    – lack of police manpower
    – 2am closing time

    As far as the military goes..yes they often were the offenders. I’m very pro-military and wish them all the respect in the world, but they aren’t acting like soliders when they come down here. They’re acting the exact oppposite often. The ex-military that work in our center all agree it’s shameful, and they shouldn’t be surprised they found themselves unwelcome.

  • shamrock says:

    I agree with most of what you said here. As I have in the past, I’ll be right next to you buying a drink for the ones that deserve it. And as I have in the past, put a word of caution about behavior in the rowdies ears, as I do for any person escalating a situation.
    BUT….as a business woman that is often in retail situations, don’t imagine that our economy wouldn’t feel it if the bases close. True, Jacksonville has some of the same retail that we have here, but go to the mall someday and count how many buzz cuts and their families are passing you. We wouldn’t go bankrupt, but we would feel it, in our generated revenue, our housing costs and many other ways. It would be a ripple effect, ask any community within range of a base closing in the last 10 years.
    Let’s all try to live together.

  • Guest7969 says:

    I think you OVER ESTIMATE what that base brings us here in Wilmington…that base could absolutely SHUT DOWN and disappear and it wouldn’t change a THING in Wilmington.

    Speaking from EXPERIENCE…I can say WITHOUT A DOUBT that Marines, mostly Enlisted and non-NCO’s are the MOST DIFFICULT individuals to deal with…if they want to come to Wilmington to cause problems and be KNUCKLE heads….suck it up and take the punishment…wanna come down and be civil with the civilians…COME ON DOWN and I’ll buy you a drink…want to come down and be STUPID among civilians…take it back to Jacksonville.

  • truthbetold says:

    Spoken by someone who hasn’t seen the marines out in packs causing trouble in the local bars.

    I respect what they do for our country but that doesn’t give them the right to disregard the laws and social norms of the country they serve.

  • SSG Toteno says:

    I totally agree with the gentleman who was a former marine and currently lives in wilmington. If you haven’t served in the armed forces, how would anyone know what these marines and soldiers have gone through. I am a soldier in the US ARMY and i’m currently stationed at FT HOOD, TX.but i’m from N.C. and I don’t see how the bar owners could do such a thing like that. They should respect the fact without the armed forces they wouldn’t even have the right to have a bar, much less own a bar. They should realize what the armed forces have done for this country.

  • Guest8925 says:

    Don’t they have bars in Jacksonville? Why do they need to drive an hour to go to a bar? And, I’ve noticed that no one is addressing the problem of drunk driving. You can’t tell me that there are d/d’s for every carload of marines coming here!

  • Anthony says:

    That is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. I am sure your son is 100% innocent, and is telling you the full story /sarcasm.

    Marines aren’t like a pack of wolfs ready to jump on weak prey for having “long hair.”

    This statement makes me irate and shows how closed minded you are… Go ahead and ask your son what he really did to those Marines, and also ask your sons where his friends ran off too. At least we have the the courage to stand with our brothers.

    Stay in Jacksonville ha… I would love for you to spend a day in this place, and tell me why we come to Wilmington… 90% of us Marines are stuck here and want to go back home where they treat us like heros, but we can’t so we find a place that reminds us of home for the time being. I don’t go to Wilmington to be treated like a dog for my haircut.

  • Janice says:

    About a year ago my 26 year old son was followed out of a bar downtown. He was on his way home. Six marines beat the living daylights out of him (supposedly because he has long hair). I thought this stuff went out in the 60’s. They broke his nose, blackened his eyes and caused many other contusions. I got a call at 1 am from New Hanover Hospital. I couldn’t believe what my beautiful son looked like. I almost didn’t recognize him. I’m 100% patriotic! My older son was in the Air Force (military police) and is now a K-9 Sgt on a police force in a large city. My daughter served in the Navy for four years. I love the troops that are serving overseas and I back them unconditionally. However, it seems that when these marines come down her from Camp Legune, they can’t control themselves. I think, if they want to get drunk and stupid and six of them beat up Wilmington residents, we should no longer allow them in the bars in Wilmington. Let them keep that behavior in Jacksonville or wherever they come from origionaly. They probably wouldn’t behave like that in THEIR HOMETOWNS!!!

  • o j hartsfield says:

    I would like to say first that not all marines are like that and from this marine i say sorry for the ones that didnt up hold the code of honor for others. i hope that you and your son will not look at all marines as the two of them, i asure you we are not all like that. I hope your son is well soon.

  • Uncle Reality says:

    We used to hear the same things about others…..all those Blacks are violent…..no good….can’t be trusted…..lazy…..

    I guess bigotry never changes – just the target.

  • Guest9674 says:

    Well, I’ve read all the stories and seen first hand the truth behind the “discrimination” that occurs in Wilmington bars. The sad fact of the matter is these men spend all week being told what to do, when, and how to do it. The only free time they have is the weekends where they travel to our beautiful town.

    With that being said, they see this as a time to cut loose and throw there inhibitions to the wind. While Marines do not cause all of the problems downtown, they do account for a majority of them. While the statistics may show that they are a small percentage of problems, those statistics show problems that happen on the street in public, not inside the bars. It would have been nice to see some input from the police officers that work downtown and get their point of view on the Marine’s behavior. I have been denied entry into a bar before when asked for a membership and I do not cry out that I am being discriminated against. What this does, is allow bars to be able to regulate who can and cannot enter and partake in the activities. Was I upset? Sure. But was I discriminated against? No.

    These men have to deal with authority and being told what to do all week. When it comes to the weekend, they think the rules are thrown out for them and they rule the nightlife. There are rules at every bar that are to be followed and these men do not want to follow rules on their weekends.

  • Guest00000000 says:

    How embarrassing for the city of Wilmington. Please take a trip to Savannah and learn the right way to operate a tourist-oriented historical riverfront business community that actually embraces its local military service members. Businesses in Savannah’s historic district provide outstanding customer service….and law enforcement officials there have managed to rid the streets of the real menace in Wilmington, the derelict homeless who prey upon visitors to the downtown area. (For those of you who are thinking, “Why don’t you move to Savannah?” I am.)

  • Das Weibstück says:

    “These men have to deal with authority and being told what to do all week.”

    You mean like everyone else that has a JOB?

  • longhorn86 says:

    Spoken by someone who obviously hasn’t served. Marines are no more trouble than any other young man of that age. They are just looking to let off some steam. The community has no problem taking the tax revenue that is generated by the base and the Marines so why should they treat them differently when it comes to Saturday night. As a former Marine and Wilmington resident I can truthfully say I’ve seen both sides and it’s time to end this practice. People shouldn’t let thier views of the war dictate public policy. I’ll be surprised if this even gets posted.

  • Guestagain says:

    If you lift the private club regulations, then you will lawfully have to admit anyone who wishes to enter your establishment or face legal recourse from unsatisfied customers.

    I am a former bartender and bouncer from a private club downtown.

    The owners of the place I used to work, used the 3-day waiting period membership/valid driver’s liscense or ID required, etc. as a crutch to decide who was and who wasn’t allowed into the establishment. While I saw fights from both sides, had to cut people off from both sides and every other side for that matter, those instances were limited and quickly resolved as it ususally only involved one or two patrons.

    Since the owners were selective on who they let in, they have sustained a downtown presence for many years when countless other establishments who were not strict on who they let in have floundered. That is their right as business owners, to protect their business from threat of forseen failure when they take steps necessary to protect their investment. Call it Bar Insurance.

    If you are persistent Mr. Mayor on pushing this issue, be prepared to open the door to every high-society, old-money club in this town, to every person who wishes to enter.

    “Private” means private. If I do not meet the financial requirements or adhere to the HOA guidelines, can I still be allowed into the country club? If I make a million dollars, but my last name is Rodriquez, will my application for membership to the City Club be refused? If I am a female, can I be a member of Augusta National? You know the answers.

    Restaurants have bars, restaurants are public and are not required to have memberships.

    Country clubs have bars and restaurants, yet country clubs are private and require memberships. Why is that? Can’t I be allowed a place to have a drink just like everyone else?

  • jay says:

    Everytime I go to a bar where they dont sell food, I have never been asked for a membership. The most I have ever had to do is sign a guest book. And when I sign a guest book they dont even check to see if I put my real name. So this is all crazy.

  • Wilmington BArs says:

    I work and oversee security in nightclubs. I don’t have a problem with anyone from the military entering any establishment I work at. I understand that everyone feels Marines travel like dogs in packs, and attack the same way. My policy is everyone of them go to jail if they are involved, no questions asked. Even without the “grace” period on private clubs you can still restrict who enters your establishment as with any other business. Wilmington offers a variety of clubs and entertainment. Sure the guys in uniform get wild sometimes after basic training. My suggestion has always been have the military police on standby and when one of their own gets out of hand they are arrested and turned over to the MP’s or the provost marshall. The military personnel gets a bad reputation because of a few bad apples. So if you are in the military and enjoy coming to Wilmigton and the bars here encourage your fellow soldiers not to get into trouble or altercations. Most of the time soldiers will get their buddies and leave, and if not they like everyone else should be detained, arrested and be held accountable for their actions. They are causing no more trouble than the young gang bangers lurking downtown, and normally they do lookout for civilians downtown if there is a problem. The police don’t patrol the clubs inside unless they are called. Bar owners should be able to use law enforcement to remove unruly patrons without having to worry about getting a reputation from ALE or the city police. So how about working on that Mr. Mayor? Maybe this would help rememdy the pending issue?

  • Guest92 says:

    Military police would be a great thing since when me and my friends have been downtown and a fight breaks out if it is in the street the WPD stand back let the guys beat the heck out of each other and then handcuff. What happen to the police jumping in and stopping the fight or are they afraid they might get hit? Just asking why. This has happened on numerous accasions.

  • Guest65 says:

    Okay so Mr. Mayor wants military to come to Wilmington bars….send a truck and five hundred MPS with them….that way when they show themselves for the great honorable men they are the MPS can throw them in a truck and haul them back to Jacksonville. And I am sick of hearing about how hard the military has it. You know what we all have been dealt many problems but the rest of us have to learn to deal with them and not whine to the Mayor about how we are mistreated…come on some of us are sick of hearing how bad you have it! I face everyday trying to figure out how to feed my three children, pay my rent, keep the lights on so get a life…..but wait a minute who can I whine to….NO ONE!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    It has everything to do with respecting the men and women who are out laying their lives on the line so that you and your three kids can live in a free society.

    What you evidently don’t understand is that our service men and women don’t view being in the military as a “problem.” They’re all volunteers. They’re proud of what they do, and they do it so that you don’t have to.

    They don’t ask for anything but a little respect, something you obviously can’t offer them. So you just continue that oh-so-difficult job of paying rent and figuring out how to keep those lights on…

    …a man has to know his limitations.

  • guesty says:

    You let the knuckle heads wear themselves out fighting and then you cuff and stuff. It isn’t being afraid, it is being smart.

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