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Bar Owners, Marines Discuss Liquor Law

Marines from Camp Lejeune attend Tuesday's meeting

By Catherine M. Welch

Wilmington, NC – Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he thinks it's a good idea to require downtown bars post the state's membership rules to get inside. The idea was proposed by Wilmington's police chief during a meeting about whether downtown bars are using the law to discriminate against Marines.

If bars and nightclubs want to serve liquor, state law requires them to make all customers members, with membership coming after a three-day wait.

Some Marines say bouncers at the door recognize the military haircut and single them out to prove membership.

The Marines call it discrimination, but Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he thinks it's just poor communication between bars and Marines, and perhaps the rules should be posted at the door.

"I think that would help alleviate a lot of oh you're not letting me in because you don't like me, or because I'm a Marine."

Bar owners say rowdy Marines are a safety hazard, especially when there's a group of them.

Bar owners invited Marine officials to their monthly meeting to create better communication between the bars and the base.

Changing The Rules
The Attorney for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission says conditions are ripe for changes to North Carolina's membership rules for bars and nightclubs.

Fred Gregory says the commission can changed the wait from three days to one. He says in the last seven months ABC commissioners have received several letters from cities like Charlotte and Winston-Salem to do just that.

"I mean Wilmington's interested in it, the Marine Corps interested in it, so a couple years ago you would have hardly heard anyone grumble about it."

Saffo says he will consider adding Wilmington to the list of cities petitioning the ABC Commission to change the rules.

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