09/04/07 — Agency cites reasons behind denial of beer permit

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Agency cites reasons behind denial of beer permit

By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 4, 2007 1:46 PM

Traffic, opposition from more than 400 residents and sheriff's coverage concerns are among eight reasons why the state alcohol commission recently rejected a permit for Club 55 in Seven Springs.

Randy Mills, the owner of the Club 55 El Abuelo located at 8247 N.C. 55 West, applied for a beer permit.

Club 55, a 15,000-square-foot Hispanic night club and amusement center, is located on a 28-acre tract near the Wayne-Lenoir County line. The club was built to hold 834 people.

The application was approved on Aug. 10 after Lenoir County Sheriff's Maj. Christopher Hill signed off on the permit as the approving authority for the application and the location.

When officials from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission in Raleigh learned several residents opposed the measure, the permit was rescinded, and an investigation was launched by the state Alcohol Law Enforcement Division in New Bern.

After interviewing residents, ALE officers compiled their report and submitted it to the ABC for a final decision.

ABC officials told Mills his beer application was rejected Wednesday, said Mike Herring, ABC Commission director.

Mills can appeal the decision within 60 days with the Office of the Administrative Hearings, Herring added.

Eight reasons were noted on the rejection letter dated Aug. 29.

They include:

* More than 410 area residents signed petitions protesting ABC permits at Club 55 due to problems associated with alcohol consumption and traffic.

* The intersection of N.C. 55 and 903 is less than 2/10 of a mile from Club 55. The intersection has had a number of accidents.

* At maximum capacity, traffic will increase on N.C. 55, a two-lane highway. For special events, traffic could be backed up as patrons enter Club 55. The risk of driving while impaired incidents could increase.

* The establishment will have a maximum occupancy of 600 to 800. The parking lot is unpaved and unmarked, which could increase the risk of disorderly conduct and fighting.

* Three churches are located less than three-quarters of a mile from Club 55. At least one provides evening services each week.

* The club is located in Lenoir County, less than a half mile from the Wayne County line. Wayne County residents could be affected by the increased traffic on N.C. 55.

* The Wayne County Sheriff's Office does not have the manpower to assist the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office if there are problems with a crowd of more than 500 people. The Lenoir County Sheriff's Office's main office is located 15 miles away.

* A business that previously held ABC permits was located less than a half mile from Club 55 and it had a history of shootings, drugs and other violent crimes. The permits were canceled in April 2006. Deputies closed Smitty's, a black nightclub, due to numerous violent crimes at the business, Lenoir County Sheriff Billy Smith said.