11/08/09 — Club 55 seeking a brown bag alcohol permit

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Club 55 seeking a brown bag alcohol permit

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 8, 2009 1:50 AM

A nightclub just east of Seven Springs, which has drawn the ire of neighbors for noise violations, might seek a new liquor permit, officials said.

Club 55 El Abuelo sits just across the Wayne-Lenoir county line on N.C. 55.

Lenoir County officials and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission say club owner Randy Mills has submitted early paperwork for a 'brown bagging' permit.

Liquor-by-the drink is illegal in Lenoir County. The county does allow "brown-bagging," which permits patrons to bring their own liquor to the establishment to mix drinks.

Renee Cowick of the ABC Commission said officials have not received an early application, but she said the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office has a form that has been submitted to them.

The Local Government Opinion Form will not necessarily hold up an application process for Club El Abuelo, Ms. Cowick said.

"Apparently, the application process has started and Mr. Mills has submitted some forms to the Sheriff's Office that they need to complete before they can send the application to us," she said.

According to state law, a brown-bagging permit allows each individual patron of an establishment to bring up to eight liters of fortified wine or spirits.

Such permits can be issued to restaurants, hotels, private clubs, community theaters and congressionally chartered veterans organizations, according to state law.

In Lenoir County, voters have approved all alcohol sales except for mixed drinks, which would prevent the club from serving liquor without a brown-bagging permit, Ms. Cowick said.

When the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office received the initial form, which officials have 15 days to complete by law, they wrote a letter to the ABC Commission, Ms. Cowick said.

"(The sheriff) actually sent us a letter that said, 'I don't have any basis for an objection, but here are some complaints that we've received from citizens,'" Ms. Cowick said of the letter.

In the meantime, it is common for establishments to make sure that they meet zoning and fire requirements for a brown-bagging permit, Ms. Cowick said.

For one of the club's next-door neighbors, C. Elliott Hill and his wife, Edna, the potential for a brown-bagging permit is a problem.

Hill said at least three nearby families have already sold their homes to move away from the club.

The new tenants have come to Hill with the same complaints, he said.

The noise doesn't keep him awake anymore because he has become somewhat hard of hearing, he said.

But one night, when he had guests at his home, he realized the extent of the problem.

"Our guests, they woke me up, and said 'Don't you hear that?' and there was this 'boom, boom, boom' bass music going on.'"

Hill said other immediate neighbors are annoyed by the noise, and Hill said he sat in the Lenoir County District Court room to watch Mills face noise violations.

According to court records, the club owner has been convicted at least twice of noise violations for sounds emanating from the establishment.

"This is a rural community, and if he receives that brown-bagging permit, this is something that will kind of be a first time or us," Hill said. "All this kind of stuff usually stays back in Goldsboro or Kinston rather than come out here."

The next-door neighbor said he also worries about traffic leaving the club, a 15,000-square-foot establishment.

Mills and his attorney, Goldsboro real estate and contract lawyer John Dees, have consistently declined to comment about anything pertaining to the club.