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Wilmington to implement committee to regulate downtown bars

READ MORE: Wilmington to implement committee to regulate downtown bars
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's easy to point the finger as to why downtown Wilmington has such a bad reputation, but there's no denying there's a problem. As the Wilmington Police Department tries to reduce violence surrounding the late night bar scene, Wilmington City Council is taking it's own steps.

From now on people applying for liquor licenses will have to get the approval from the city of Wilmington before proceeding to the ABC Board.

Downtown Wilmington has seen it's fair share of stabbings, shootings and bar fights on the weekends. Many feel the violence is like a revolving door.

"I don't go near the bars because people don't know the limits of themselves and don't know how much to drink or when to stop and things get out of hand," said Arius White, who's a student at Cape Fear Community College.

Wilmington City Councilman Kevin O'Grady has made it his mission to take the violence out of downtown Wilmington. Despite the high volume of crime reports in the central business district, Mayor Bill Saffo blames the media for downtown's bad reputation.

"If it's a slow news day and something is going on at the bars it's going to get attention," said Saffo. "Unfortunately the perception of downtown is that it's violent. I can tell you I've walked down late hours and I've never been bothered, but if it bleeds it leads."

Despite differences of opinion over the severity of the problem, Wilmington City Council voted unanimously to implement a new policy giving the city a bigger role in regulating the downtown bar scene.

Wilmington City Council will form a committee to review liquor license permit requests and the committee will have the authority to suspend or revoke permits. They will also notify landlords when a tenant has any sort of violation.

While existing clubs will operate as they have in the past, new downtown clubs will be required to locate at least 330 feet away from the nearest bar.

The new committee will be made up of fire fighters, police officers, downtown residents and bar owners. Some of the council members fear this new policy will ruin the re-sale value of the downtown locations.

Most of the council members agree that if in a few years they do not see a change for the better they can always amend the policy or do away with it all together.

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