ALE renewing enforcement of bar memberships

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Submitted: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 4:17am
Updated: Thu, 12/05/2013 - 4:05pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Thanks to renewed enforcement of a state alcohol law you might not be able to get a drink, regardless of your age, if you’re not a card carrying member of that establishment.

Recently, ten bars in downtown Wilmington were issued warnings by the ALE for allowing patrons in without memberships.

Some owners and bartenders are now afraid the policy will keep people away from downtown.

“I don’t understand why you would have to be a member of an establishment to drink there,” said James Carver.

If a bar doesn’t receive at least 30% of their revenues from the sale of food then they are classified as a private club and must require everyone who comes through the door to become a member or kick them out.

“I feel like potentially it could hurt business because a lot of times it’s a deterrent because somebody comes into a place and they automatically ask for a membership,” said Paul Royster.

To apply for a membership you should be prepared to give your name and age as well as your social interests and hobbies.

“It’s a little weird,” said Royster. “I would be a little thrown off by that question, especially when I just came there to get a beer.”

“It’s just one more aspect of it where they’re just getting involved in things they don’t really have any business to be involved in,” said Carver. “This establishment should be able to serve anybody of legal drinking age without having to be an official member of the establishment. It’s a ridiculous fine if they don’t ask someone if they’re a member of the establishment.”

Failure to comply and you and your favorite watering hole could be cut off at the tap.

“I don’t understand the point other than I guess the control aspect or a little money grab,” said Carver. “I don’t understand what the real point of it is.”

WWAY spoke with a number of bar owners who preferred not to go on camera. The owners all said that ALE needs to be focused on the things they are doing right such as keeping under age kids out of bars and training bartenders not to over serve patrons.

WWAY also tried to reach out to the local ALE office but they have yet to return our call.


  • gustafo says:

    There’s ways around every law. Get a grill/fryer, start serving food, and call yourself a restaurant.

    And to all of you prohibition supporters out there, get a life,…or get a time machine and go back to 1920. I don’t drink either, but that doesn’t mean the way I live should be forced on other people, especially through government. Government doesn’t care about the well-being of people, they make new laws so they can rake in more cash through enforcement.

  • Guest-o-matic says:

    Not a problem at all. Keep a logbook at the door and everyone signs in as they enter. This is the way it used to be 12 years ago or so and is still an active law.

    It’s also a very good way to prevent those un-wanted, drunk @$$ed trouble makers from frequenting your establishment. No membership, go home. Got a membership, cause trouble, it’s revoked…go home. Don’t wantcha, don’t needja here.

    It isn’t a big deal to all of you that still think the commies are coming to close down all the bars. Isn’t going to happen. They’re only after your tax money. Relax

  • Tomeka major says:

    Well they are doing a piss poor job of enforcing the rules as well as being fair. The clubs we go to downtown never check for membership. Depending on what group of friends I’m with we are either let in or get bs and we are sick of it. You claim you need a membership filed out for one never recieve it or a response. You tell half a group of friends who are a minority you gotta be members yet the other half who also don’t have memberships walk right in there is no excuse for this period

  • ChefnSurf says:

    - “And your social interests and hobbies sir?”
    – “My what?”
    – “Social interests and hobbies sir”
    – “Well ….. I am interested in socializing with other bar patrons ….. and I do like to have an occasional beer now and then ….. Can that be considered a hobby?”
    – “Give me just a minute sir while I check to see if they’re on the approved Big Brother Social Interests and Hobbies Government List this month.”
    – “For this month?”
    – “Yes sir, once the government discovered it could even ask questions like that, they realized they could arbitrarily change the list on a monthly basis, depending on the whims of whatever bureaucrat was running the program of course. Now if you’ll just stand by the door for about thirty minutes while I run the standard background check …..”

    Regardless of whether you are pro or con concerning bars or drinking, do we really want a government that actually requires its citizens to divulge their social interests and hobbies as part of a legal compliance? That’s about as intrusive as a government forcing its long arm of the law down your throat and through your body in order to check for polyps in your colon.

    Can you say “massively overreaching government intrusion” boys and girls?

  • Misa says:

    I long for the day that alcohol will be carry the same stigma as smoking. The alcohol industry gets away with murder . . . literally with murder.

    Their advertising is aimed at youth, and the message is you cannot have a good time without being intoxicated.

    Where is the Wilmington chapter of MADD?

    We need to clamp down on America’s favorite recreation drug-=-Alcohol. It’s a killer in more ways than one.

  • Daniel Seamans says:

    …I don’t have the magic cure to make folks get their point across by simply writing it in a well thought out comment/complaint/counter minus words that have no bearing. To my knowledge the word, that rhymes with ‘kiss’, isn’t on the list of list of profanity words absolutely banned. So yes, it was me who approved it.
    Please note, though, that I’m not the bad guy in this moderating dealio. I’m simply a team player who volunteers on his off-time(read 24hrs a day/7 days a week) to approve comments so that you can carry on a debate at a faster pace.
    I’m sorry my moderation(ing) decisions have even become a part of this story-line, but I appreciate you noting that the word that rhymes with ‘sit’ is not allowed.

  • Cemson Bemson says:

    Looks like if you cant see it coming out a yourself by yourself, then it cant come out on this here post neither. Otherwise I’m guessing its just fine. A course them really bad swear words still aint fine neither, an I already know that.

    Me, I aint to partial to using neither a them words, but I’m guessing there aint no use crying over spilt *iss (I still aint gone to use that other word neither).

    Sure do appreciate you being a team player an all Mr. Seamans, specially using up all a your time with this here moderating dealio. Sure are giving us regular folks ever chance at getting ourselves all riled up without some a that stuff were saying just disappearing an all. Looks like your a darn good fit at this here job your doing!

    (That there word “dealio” … that one a them fancy Italian words or something?)

  • Clemson Bemson says:

    I been reading some a them Don’t Use No Foul Language posts you been writing lately.

    An now here I am, looking at this here post, and right up there, right in front of my eyeballs, I’m looking at a word that’s rhyming with “kiss”, but it sure don’t mean that!

    So are you then saying that, if its something that done come out a your body, then its OK to be saying that here? Then I’m guessing its OK to use that there four letter word that done rhyme with “sit” too?

  • Duh says:

    Members can have guests and I don’t think there is a limit. Just have an employee or member sign-in people as guests who are not members.

  • John Q. Public says:

    To the fool who said “I never drink close them all down” do you eat fast food? Close all them down! Crazy huh? think about all the people who die from that!?! what about the accidents caused by people stuffing their face while driving?

    How would you feel if you went into a clothing store just to buy clothes and you were asked for a membership card? (required to purchase something??

    This is a farce.

    Remember, it’s not a war against drugs (or alcohol) it’s a war against personal freedom. Don’t ever forget that.

  • Sherri says:

    I remember growing up here in the 70’s when all the clubs were private and there was no liquor by the drink, brown bottling only. “They” told us we were all Racists and Anti-American (military unlikely to have memberships) to have Member Only Clubs and had to open the bars and entertainment spots to the Public. Now they want Member Only Clubs again? My head hurts…..

  • guest123123 says:

    New administration already has cut their budget by 8 million. Writing could be on the wall.

  • guest123123 says:

    A lot of the regulations were written by industry members back when liquor by the drink was established. Industry members include the NC beer and wine wholesalers, NC restaurant association, NC hotel and motel association.

  • 1234543 says:

    It’s way past time that thestate and fed’s get out of the ALCOHOL business and the GAMBLNG business, neither one should receive a thin dime out of either industry, then things will change

  • guesty1O1 says:

    Yet another regressive backwards post-prohibition era law that our chicken scratch state reps have no stomach to change. Kind of like the law that states you can sell wine but not beer (Pender); or we have to go to a state owned and managed ABC store to purchase liquor; or no alcohol sales before noon on Sunday; or DRY towns.

    Too many stupid laws that serve no real purpose and only inhibit free market capitalism. Enough is enough, time to call on your local / state REP and hold their feet to the fire. * Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • Benjamen says:

    I think we need to give the ALE the boot.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    the law in question was written by a Democratically controlled Legislature and signed by a Democratic Governor?

    Don’t like it; get the law changed.

  • guest123123 says:

    Members can have guests but they must be bona fide guests. Employees or owners are not allowed to sign in guests or solicit members to sign in non members. Good try though!!

  • Rusty says:

    I am sitting here at my PC enjoying a beer and a cigarette.. at one time smokers were a majority, people that drink on occasion (may?) be. Tolerance towards others bad habits can be prudent and I’m surprised someone hasn’t started DAM (Drunks Against Mothers)to combat ever tightening laws that have citizens incarcerated, fined, demonized or worse for having a few with dinner. 0.10 BAC was fair, .08 is arguable .06 would be asinine. Perhaps it is time to join the 21st century and realize that cell phones, texting and other distractions are the new killer on the highways. Mothers against texting? Maybe that needs to happen.

  • guest123123 says:

    The logbook as you call it is not the law. What is the law is that each patron who becomes a member has to fill out an application for membership. The sign in sheet at the door was something that was started years ago and just snowballed. If you can find the chapter 18B law or abc regulation that mandated the sign in sheet pass it along.

  • Guest2020 says:

    This certainly would work to solve some of the problems downtown. However, the government intrusion is unacceptable. It was also unacceptable for them to ban smoking in bars as well. They went so far as to put on billboards a toll free number to call and report violations.

  • Freyja says:

    Is this not the the same code which came under fire in years past for being used to deny entry of groups of U.S. Marines to local bars downtown? I just find it interesting that it was questionable then, but has recently been reinforced by A.L.E.

  • Guest-o-matic says:

    I understand the law and I understand what a membership is. I never said the logbook was the law, I only described it’s use and it does have a purpose. In the past, the clubs of which I was a member required you to sign a membership logbook as you entered and to list any “guests” that accompanied me. The memberships were usually one dollar, some were more and all required an application. You were not a member until you you came back on another date to retrieve your membership card.

    The logbook may have simply been a method of the “club” documenting compliance to the law. I have no idea and don’t really give a rats backside. Why would you?

  • ChefnSurf says:

    I could care less if it was the Democrats, the Republicans or Bozo the Clown.

    The entire focus of my post was exclusively on excessive government intrusion as manifested in this case by the absurdity of a government requiring its citizens to disclose social interests and hobbies before being allowed to enter a bar.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    The legislature writes and passes legislation. The Governor signs it into law. They were both under Democratic control at the time.

    Did you think about what you submitted? The legislation, which was signed into law, limited access to liquor based on food receipts. Do you really think the liquor industry wanted that limitation? Or was this just another feeble attempt to spout off.

    Clearly you were not in NC when the legislation was enacted into law. The hotel and motel industry, at that time, was comprised primarily of “Mom and Pop” owned sites; you did not have the wide spread chain hotels with bars and restaurants in the late 70’s and early 80’s when this came about.

  • guest123123 says:

    The point is that the industries mentioned had a lot of influence in the drafting off the legislation that legislators had no clue about.They were given free reign. Point being the NC Rest Assoc was very instrumental in the original 72 hours waiting period that Private clubs use to have for memberships. They did not want those clubs to take away all of their late night business. No spouting off here,I have lived the dream.

  • guest123123 says:

    Looked pretty clear to me you stated the log book was a law in the first paragraph. Oh well silly me.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    Is is all about idiotic government control. Would someone please explain why a restaurant does not have to have members before serving alcohol? Any restaurant can and does serve anyone of legal age alcoholic beverages without requiring the purchase of food. To single out bars with this idiotic/poorly thought out law is unfair and limits their customer base. People from out of town should not be discriminated against because they will not be here long enough to go thru the membership process, nor should they be required to do so. The state needs to get rid of this bogus law…….or start requiring all establishments that serve alcohol to follow the membership requirements including ballparks and ABC stores. This is another example of the government picking the winners and losers, or at the very least legislating an unfair advantage.

  • Charles Walters says:

    What are you some kind of religious nut?

  • Tonto says:

    “Failure to comply and your favorite ‘watering hole’ could be cut off at the tap.”


    If this causes bars in downtown Wilmington to close, all the better. Bye-bye bars!

    Too many bars, too many drunks, too many drunk drivers, and too many people killed by drunk drivers who, after leaving their favorite “watering hole” careened into another car, killing its occupant.

    I’m all for ALE rules. Bring them on, and bring them on strong!

  • John Q. Public says:

    What about when they say you can’t drive after 6 PM?
    or when they raid your house to check for alcohol?
    or they stop you to check for DUI?
    or they tap your phones to make sure you aren’t drunk texting?

    when you allow this you allow anything.

  • John Q Businessowner says:

    forget about all the business owners and employees who will lose jobs.
    or the suppliers who will lose jobs.

    but no, alcohol is evil.

    why don’t you time travel to the prohibition era.. or just time travel to a lake, and jump in it.

  • DITTOS says:

    What is your major malfunction?? Just how many have been killed SFB’s?? Goes to show Mark Twain was right…Better to keep you mouth shut than to open it and prove you’re and idiot.

  • jason says:

    Wake up! You can not find an ALE Officer in downtown Wilmington if you need one. The ALE needs to focus on these “house parties” around Wilmington that attracts 300 to 400 Underage drinkers. I bet they don’t need a membership to attend. Reporters need to ride around Wilmington on any given Friday or Saturday around the neighborhoods surrounding UNC-W. The parties are not hard to spot. Just look for all the cars lined up along the roadway. The ALE needs to crack down on the “alcohol” houses instead legitimate business’. If I was a business owner, I would be raising heck about this. Oh, that would be a good story, but don’t report on that, because us Wilmingtonians don’t want to run away the partiers that can’t afford to go downtown, because then Mom and Dad will get involved.

  • Guest2020 says:

    UNCW’s stance on underage drinking doesn’t help matters. My daughter started there this fall. At orientation, they said they don’t care if the underage kids drink as long as they do it off campus and don’t get caught by the police. It is highly irresponsible of them.

  • Jonathan says:

    I like this idea, but maybe there is something about it I failed to consider. First, it is already the law, so why was it not being enforced? It disturbs me when I hear how much discretion law enforcement uses in applying the statutes. Second, a patron is already required to show an id with a picture, name, birth date, address, height, weight, etc. Theoretically that information is already available to the establishment. Third, and most significant, “we all know” that drinkers present a whole host of legal issues which expand the risks associated with many activities. Why not keep better track? Well, one reason might be that it will just drive the behavior underground, but on the face of it I like the idea.

  • guest123123 says:

    The private club laws are rarely enforced. Just became an issue with new Chairman of ABC within the last few months due to a few deaths over Labor Day In Charlotte and Fayetteville.

  • live in the city says:

    thank you ale go for it, im glad to hear that, maybe it close more bars downtown. i dont drink or never have. bars are nothing but trouble.

  • Monkey Junction says:

    What a ridiculous law. Is there even enforcement across the county or is ALE just concentrating on the downtown bars?

  • guest123123 says:

    All over the state not just Wilmington or NHC

  • SurfCityTom says:

    is the law. No new changes there. Just very slack enforcement during the past 12 years of spend and tax government.

    Pretty easy to understand.

    Food sales below 30%, you have to operate as a private club. That law has been around forever.

    Look further, food sales have to be above 50% for a restaurant to maintain its liquor license. Let’s see what happens if they begin strict enforcement at some of the sports bars like Buffalo Wild Flings or Carolina Pale House. Could they too be required to operate as private establishments?

  • guest123123 says:

    There is no 50% requirement. Those businesses you mention have to meet the 30% rule just like every other mixed beverage restaurant license.

  • Vog46 says:

    “Let’s see what happens if they begin strict enforcement at some of the sports bars like Buffalo Wild Flings or Carolina Pale House. Could they too be required to operate as private establishments?”

    No for several reasons – they could have the tourism liquor license which allows for sales of alcohol without any prerequisite food sales. They are also national chains (Buffalo WW).
    Using your scenario a hotel wouldn’t qualify to sell alcohol because food is NOT 50% of it’s business. There are so many exemptions I’m not surprised there has been slack enforcement. The Convention Center can sell booze through vendors at events but again its permitted by another exemption.
    Liquor sales/distribution is “a hard nut to crack”. I came from a state where there was no government control over it and the industry was dominated by criminals and price gouging was the norm. Here in NC its still dominated by criminals but they also happen to be politicians or political appointees – making it less palatable when they get caught doing something nefarious.
    From early on criminals saw booze as a means to make money – the politicians did catch on……


  • stratcatz says:

    You didnt say “Mother may I”, that will be a $2500.00 fine!

  • Guest123123 says:

    This change of enforcement is due to the new Chairman of the ABC Commission sending out a memo to all private club owners in September. This letter dealt with the violence in some high capacity clubs in larger cities with continuous problems concerning breaches of the peace and two deaths over the Labor Day holiday. Now all private club owners are paying the price.

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