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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A committe involving "downtown residents and bar owners" to decide who gets to open up and who gets to STAY open???

Get real people. Can't you just see the abuse about to happen?
If I owned a bar down there and I was on that committe, what would stop me from, or rallying support on the committe to, suspend or revoke the permits of my COMPETITORS???
We all know how shady and cut throat humans are.

This very "plan" seems to be the work of a a few individuals' attempt to lord power over others.
UNELECTED INDIVIDUALS at that!

The State of North Carolina all ready has laws in effect that have guidelines for revoking liquor permits.
If an establishment is not violatng STATE LAW, why does this city feel it has the right to go above and beyond to try and destroy people's livelihoods?

Instead, the city should use the EXISTING LAWS, and enforce them.
And if an establishment is violating these laws, punish them!

Not put power into the hands of petty, back stabbing individuals.

The only solution to effectively police downtown is simply. The 3 block radius between princess and castle along front street should be shut down to traffic....instead we spent the money redesigning the middle of market street and front 6 times. Many larger cities use this promanade approach extremely successfully. Instead of the logical choice they put trees on the sidewalk which have branches at chest level, they put a sidewalk that is already covered in dirt and gum so much so that it looks 10 years old....the gist of my rant is that if front street was closed to traffic the police would be able to easily patrol the area , and sales would skyrocket. not to mention the idea of aupplmenting the police force with national guardsman was also a great idea....

I've heard some pretty non-sensical comments come from Saffos "smiley real-estate cheeks", but this one really takes the cake! So, let me be sure I understand this correctly, if he believes the media is to blame for his city's reputation...

Does that also mean that the media is to blame for the girl that was raped and stabbed near to death in the church courtyard on 3rd and Market St.? This woman still has problems from that. Have you been to visit HER, Saffo?

Is the media to blame for all of the car break-ins, tire cuttings and thefts that happen every weekend?

Is the media to blame for the man who had his face knife-slashed by a random, violent thug downtown?

Is the media to blame for the pistol whippings and attempted rapes that occur downtown and reported in nearly every Sunday morning news website?

Is the media to blame for the drunks that bump a police horse with his car, punch a police horse in the face or that back into a parked police car?

Is the media to blame for city installing all of those surveillance cameras that never really record anything, in particular criminal acts?

Is the media to blame for all of the fistfights, bloody faces and arrests for D & D EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND?

Is it the media's fault that most of the downtown sidewalks and alley accesses near the bars reek of vomit, urine and cigarette butts ? Now, there's a sure-fire tourist attraction for Sunday visitors looking for a nice brunch!!!

Saffo or any other of the city council has never taken one itsy-bitsy, teesy-weensy iota of responsibility for the crime that routinely occurs downtown during the weekends, they blame the media and grin their pearly-whites as their pictures are taken in front of the convention center.

Sorry Saffo, the only thing you can blame the media for is reporting what actually happens on YOUR watch, in YOUR city. Your accusation is no less rediculous than MacIntyre's accusation that Pantano wants to raise taxes by 23%. I only want to make sure we are on the same page, in the same city here.

Isn't truly amazing to watch politicians panic and how they react by "flying into the light" when the end is near?

"Is the media to blame for the pistol whippings and attempted rapes that occur downtown and reported in nearly every Sunday morning news website?"

You actually believe that happens?
I don't know what "website" you read but I'm here to tell you that is not happening.

I am a retired Marine from the Vietnam area and was stationed in Wilmington with the MP attachment from Camp Lejuene (1964-1966). Our MP station was at the old New Hanover County Court House in the basement. We had two MP Dodge patty wagons on duty 24/7 and a full time desk Sgt. Our job was to patrol the Wilmington area, beaches and walking with a local Wilmington patrol officer down town at the local bars. I believe our presence with a local officer showed force and control on the streets.

Since leaving the Marine Corp, I have returned to Wilmington every year for vacation and I have noticed no presence with the military. I know Wilmington is a good place to visit and with the Military Police being present may help the situation with the tourists for their safety.

Wilmington is a great place to visit as you say. Your idea of instituting MP's in the downtown area is excellent! You would likely have much more success in controlling the rowdy, 10 foot tall and bullet-proof drunks that are causing all of the problems! Our current law enforcement simply cannot handle the load and frequency. Nothing intended against them, it's just too much and they are overwhelmed at times.

and I would encourage you to reconsider your comment if you're implying "the ten foot tall and bullet proof rowdy drunks" are all members of the Corps.

No doubt some of the perpertartors are. But not all; far from it. The idea of an MP presence is a good one. If they know they might be standing before the Sgt Major, First Sgt, or Company Commander, they might think twice. That's in addition to any charges issued in Wilmington.

Watch the newscasts. An even greater number are boastful, away from home for the first time freshmen from UNCW. So why not have the UNCW police work hand in hand with Wilmington's finest on Friday and Saturday evening. Let them stand before a Student Court, after they have been held accountable in Wilmington. Wonder how long Mom & Dad will continue writing checks if they get a communication from School that Junior has had some alcohol related incidents downtown?

But then too, why not have the Mayor and head of WDI don flak jackets and helmets on Friday and Saturday evening and assist the Police with their force of personality.

It's not the fact that there are so many bars and liquor licenses, it's the people who are frequenting these places. The Wilmington Police Department can only do so much with this problem. Perhaps we should take a look at how late these places are open. It seems to me that the later it get's, the drunker people get and there you have it, a bunch of sleepy drunks with the attitude they can conquer the entire city in one fail swoop. Close up shop earlier and don't serve those that appear to have had way too much to drink.

Quit blaming this problem on the media, the Mayor, law enforcement etc, put the blame on the idiots that are out there drinking way too much and starting fights. Not to mention, just act in a civil manner.

"Saffo blames the media for downtown's bad reputation."

Yeah, Ok. Why is guy still the mayor?
I blame it on the news I hear from the people that where actually down there and see this on the weekends. I also blame it on the young men I know personally that were jumped, beaten to a pulp and left to die on the sidewalk.

I bet you walked downtown all alone too.
Get a grip Saffo. You're wonderful downtown has become a cesspool. Did you find a Convention center hotel yet?

The city handles everything else so well...yeah let them do this (MAJOR SARCASIM THERE)
Though I do not like the Mayor...I will agree the media really blows the mess out of control. I've been there many times after dark and yes the idiots are out, but I have never felt threatened.

The City does not need to "form a commitee". The police need to actually patrol, not hang out on the corner and wait to be called. Its called walk the beat, not hang on the street.

Put the city in this and it will only get worse.. it'll be bars against city... The bars are not the problem. Its public awareness and cops that ARE NOT doing the job of patroling just going to the issue.

Councilman O'Grady brings an excellent idea to the table, but it is incomplete. In order for this committee to really be effective it needs to have the authority to deny renewals for current bars as well. If existing [politically connected] bar owners are not subject to the discipline of this proposed committee, the committee will amount to a complete waste of time assuring nothing but business as usual for the current owners and the regulation [elimination] of competition.

The mayor's comment blaming the media for downtown's bad reputation is one of the most ridiculous things I've heard in a long time. The cure for a problem is not hiding bad news. Mr. Mayor, what news do you suggest be concealed from the public?

There are already laws on the books about serving intoxicated patrons. Enforce them more agressively.

What's more important, the resale value of a business or the protection of lives?

Giving local yokels the power to superceed the State's authority is an AWFUL idea.
To further suggest they have the soverign authority to just shut down a business with out just cause and a day in court is absolutely LUDICROUS.

MY SUGGESTION IS WHY NOT BUILD MORE ALONG CAROLINA BEACH ROAD ALONG WHERE THE LEGION STADIUM AND ROSES AREA SINCE THE VALUE OF PROPERTIES ARE LOT LESS AND THE REPUTATIONS WONT BE AS BAD ALSO NOT MUCH FOR THE MEDIA TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE REPUTATION OF BARS AND TURN BARS TO STORES OR MORE DINER, RESTURANTS DOWNTOWN WOULD SOLVE MORE PROBLEMS. I DO BELIEVE PEOPLE LIKE TO BE MAD, ROWDY LATER ON AS THEY GET DRUNK AFTER KNOWING COPS ARE AROUND SINCE MANY DONT FEEL COMFORTABLE SO THE MORE COPS ARE THERE THEN MORE PROBLEMS ALSO THE LESS COPS ARE AROUND THE MORE PEACEFUL IT BE TILL THE TIME BARS CLOSES!!!! IF THIS IS THE CASE THEN BARS STAY DOWNTOWN AND COPS DONT COME THERE UNTIL 20 MIN BEFORE IT CLOSES INSTEAD OF COMING THERE LIKE 3 OR 4 HOURS EARLIER AND CRUISING AROUND AND STANDING REALLY EFFECTS PEOPLE AROUND THE BARS.

That's just a stupid comment. We have tons of violent crimes happening and your solution is LESS POLICE? You must be one of the thugs storming our streets. I say lets bring in the big guns and get some military down there. More enforment is the answer, not LESS!!!!