08/30/07 — State agency denies Club 55 alcohol permit

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State agency denies Club 55 alcohol permit

By Lee Williams
Published in News on August 30, 2007 1:46 PM

Club 55 will not be able to sell beer.

The North Carolina Alco-holic Beverage Control Com-mission in Raleigh denied a beer application Wednesday submitted by Randy Mills, 49, of Mills Road.

Mills, a Wayne County resident, is the owner of Club 55 El Abuelo, a Hispanic nightclub and amusement center in Seven Springs.

"His application was rejected based on our concerns for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens in the community in which Club 55 is located," said Mike Herring, director of the ABC Commission. "We also found that the operation of this business with a beer permit would be detrimental to the neighborhood pursuant to N.C.G.S. 18B-901 (c)."

According to the statute, officials also look at the number of places already holding ABC permits in the neighborhood, parking facilities and traffic conditions, whether the establishment is located within 50 feet of a church or school and recommendations of the local governing body when considering an alcohol permit.

It's unclear if the denial of the beer permit will prompt Mills to cancel Friday's grand opening. Three Latin bands were booked and a used red Ford Windstar van was expected to be given away during the event.

Mills declined to comment when reached by cell phone.

The 15,000-square-foot club anchored on a 28-acre tract is located on N.C. 55 West and Jerusalem Church Road in Lenoir County and is about a half-mile from the Lenoir-Wayne County line.

The new club was built to hold 834 people, but Lenoir County Fire Marshal Deral Raynor said he was looking at scaling the number back to around 500 or so, upon final inspection.

Dozens of residents including stakeholders of the Robert A. Mewborn Trust that sold Mills the land, church leaders and business owners in the area opposed a plan to sell alcohol at the club and started a petition to stop the measure.

Some residents feared the club would bring traffic, trash and crime to the area, which is largely a farming and rural neighborhood.

Law enforcement officials also worried the club, which will have video games, soccer fields, pool tables, go-cart track and a dance floor, would become a "haven" for gangs.

ABC officials agreed that issuing a beer permit would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood.

Herring said Mills could appeal the decision and request a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings.

"The petition must be filed within 60 days from Aug. 29, 2007," Herring said. "His petition must be in writing and state the facts showing why he is entitled to the ABC permit for which he applied."

Herring added that ABC Commission's actions won't bar Mills from allowing his patrons to bring their own alcohol to the establishment.

He said Mills told officials that is what he plans to do.