At Buddy’s Crab House and Oyster Bar on Monday night, the bartender checked for memberships to the private club, with members and guests signing in to maintain records. Just a few days earlier, no one was keeping such a list at the Palm Room, located next door, a violation that could cost the establishment.
On Aug. 15, two North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents entered the Palm Room in plain clothes without being checked for a membership. It wasn’t the first time the Wrightsville Beach establishment has caught ALE’s attention, as agents issued a written warning in December 2014 and a verbal warning before that.
With this violation, a report will be submitted to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Commission, which could result in a fine for the owners of the venue, which features live music just steps from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier at its 11 East Salisbury St. location.
ABC has requested increased enforcement of membership rules of private clubs, ALE agent DJ Hales said.
The ABC gets reports from ALE and local law enforcement on establishments that don’t comply with its rules and regulations. The agency’s legal staff reviews the reports, and contacts the businesses believed to be in violation.
Business owners then have a couple of choices. They can reach a settlement with the ABC, which can include a fine or suspension of the establishment’s liquor license. That settlement is then put before the ABC Commission for approval. Or owners can contest the allegation and take it to a hearing before an administrative law judge.
The ABC can issue fines of up to $5,000 for each violation. In some cases, particularly if the establishment has a history of violence or criminal activity, the commission can strip the establishment of its license.
An establishment that serves food and alcoholic drinks must make 30 percent of its sales from food in order not to be deemed a private club. Anything less and it must require that any patron be a member or a guest of a member.
The ABC also has classifications for sports clubs, which include establishments with18-hole golf courses and tennis courts, retail businesses, convenience stores, convention centers, community theaters and hotels, among others.
Red Dog’s is another Wrightsville bar that was reported to the ABC earlier this year for membership violations, the ALE said.
Palm Room owner Danny McLeod declined to comment.