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Bar owners head to Raleigh to talk policing and ABC policies

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Local bar owners are headed to Raleigh to address downtown safety and the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board's responsibility to enforce laws that prohibit over-serving.

Amid the controversy over salaries, the state legislature created a committee to look in to the ABC board. Wilmington bar and restaurant owners are using this opportunity to tell state lawmakers the ABC board needs to gets its enforcement officers into the bars.

Under state statute, ABC commissions are required to either hire officers or contract local law enforcement to enforce ABC laws, including licensing, patrolling underage drinking and over-serving. It's something local bar owners say isn't happening.

"Hanging around the local ABC store and guarding the store guarding deposits, that is not enforcing an ABC law," Front Street Brewery Owner, Tom Harris, said. "That's primarily what the three officers assigned to the local ABC board have been doing."

In a meeting dedicated to drawing diners and shoppers downtown, Tom Harris said he's headed to Raleigh to address late night safety concerns and what he believes is a misuse of ABC officers.

"You've got the local board that needs three officers who, according to my information, have never been downtown on a Friday or Saturday night and who have never enforced any ABC laws at the most needed time," Harris said.

"To my knowledge there hasn't been an arrest by a single ABC officer downtown and they know that we have a night life problem down here," Ray Worrell, Slice of Life owner, said. "We need help."

The former ABC board was under fire the past few months for excessive salaries paid to it's administrators. As a result, state lawmakers are examining the system and how it can be improved.

Tom Harris says now is the to act.

"We've got a handful of operators who don't care if they over-serve people and quite frankly we're going to put a stop to that," Harris said.

The Wilmington City Council talked about problems with downtown bars at its meeting Tuesday night. Council members are very interested in what may happen in Raleigh.

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Clarification request

It should be noted that in order to more accurately describe the content of this segment the title should probably read "Downtown business owners... or Downtown restaurant owners head to Raleigh..." since those quoted in the piece are very involved and well-respected owners of restaurants which serve good food and also which hold ABC licenses. Thus, differentiating their downtown establishments from others which simply serve alcohol.