WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington city leaders have been brainstorming ways to clean up the downtown bar scene for months. Now that a young man lost his life after visiting a local bar city leaders say something needs to change and it needs to change fast.
Many people say the violence is a result of limited funds and resources to help keep downtown clean and safe, but when you take a look at the numbers there is money that could be used to help get downtown safer.
Safety in downtown Wilmington continues to be a growing concern and when it comes to finding a solution city leaders have different opinions.
“Since we are having all these problems with alcohol let’s just add fees similar to what we did with sweepstakes to the bars so we have enough money to do the work but that’s not fair to someone who just has a restaurant who happens to serve alcohol versus someone who serves only alcohol,” said Wilmington City Councilman Ronald Sparks.
Some city leaders say without money there’s not much that can be done to help clean up downtown. Others say we have the money, but it’s not being allocated correctly.
“We’re already collecting lots and lots of money on alcohol sales,” said Sen. Thom Goolsby. “Let’s use it wisely and if it’s to protect people that’s our number one priority.”
Goolsby supports using money brought in from alcohol sales to help increase security in Wilmington. Alcohol is a contributing factor to downtown violence, but it’s also a major source of revenue for the county and the state. In 2010 the Alcohol Beverage Control generated more than $200 million dollars in revenue for the entire state. New Hanover County contributed about $30 million to those sales. After taxes and expenses, the county saw a profit of more than $3 million dollars. Goolsby says using that money is the answer.
“It’s one of the few sets of businesses we have left downtown,” said Goolsby. “Everybody else has pulled out. We have bars and we have restaurants and we need to make sure those businesses stay.”
After Monday morning’s fight that resulted in a death Sparks says the city needs money and the authority to go into the bars to regulate.
“There’s got to be a way to give our officers the authority to go into a building and nip the problem in the butt,” said Sparks. “If our officers are in the bar and see under aged people being served we can take action right then and not have under aged and overly intoxicated people come outside and carry on like they did this weekend.”
Wilmington ranks among the top in alcohol sales, along with Charlotte and Raleigh.