‘I’d love to see ABC, ALE, CMPD start enforcing more’: Local bar owner sounds off on new alcohol mandate

Local bar owner sounds off on new Mecklenburg County alcohol mandate

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Because of Mecklenburg County’s latest alcohol proclamation, bar owner Stefan Huebner has trimmed hours at his unique, private club known as Dot Dot Dot.

The bar is tucked away in the Park Road Shopping Center, not easily visible if customers aren’t looking for it.

Huebner said the bar used to close at midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. during weekends, but due to the county’s newest proclamation, Dot Dot Dot will only be open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and will cease operations at 11 p.m.

When asked about keeping the business open past 11 p.m., Huebner responded, “If you’re not selling alcohol, there’s no need to be open.”

These are the restrictive sections of Mecklenburg County’s new proclamation:

  • Restaurants serving only food and non-alcoholic beverages may continue to operate during advertised hours provided all requirements for social distancing and mask wearing are followed.
  • Restaurants and private clubs serving food and alcohol shall be closed to the onsite consumption of food and beverages and no customers shall be present for the onsite consumption of food or beverages between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Restaurants may continue to offer drive through, delivery, and/or pick-up services between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Restaurants, breweries, wine shops, private clubs, bars, and any other business or organization that are permitted to sell alcohol for onsite consumption may not sell alcohol between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and no customers shall be present for onsite consumption of alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Restaurants, private clubs and other food and beverage service businesses may not provide onsite outdoor table service for the consumption of food or alcoholic beverages in Mecklenburg County, City of Charlotte, Towns of Davidson, Matthews, Mint Hill or Pineville between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Restaurants, private clubs, bars and other food and beverage service businesses shall not allow sitting or standing at bars for food and beverage consumption and shall not allow patrons to touch shared surfaces such as bar counters or game equipment such as pool tables, darts pinball machines, or any other such game equipment that requires social touching of the game equipment.
  • All outdoor activities, gatherings, or events of more than 25 people are prohibited. (Worship services, religious and spiritual gatherings, funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and gatherings for health and safety, for work, to obtain food, or to obtain government services are exempt from this section.)

According to the proclamation, these restrictions would apply only within Mecklenburg County (excluding Huntersville and Cornelius), City of Charlotte, and Towns of Davidson, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.

Huebner said he has taken several measures to make sure his staff and customers are safe during the pandemic. Social distancing signs have been posted throughout the bar, hand sanitizer is readily available and seating capacity has been reduced.

The bar owner said the new 11 p.m. alcohol restriction will impact his business, but he imagines it will impact the rule-breakers more. He said he’d like for there to be more enforcement of the proclamation restrictions.

“People need to take it more serious. I’d love to see ABC, ALE, CMPD start enforcing more. I honestly think if ALE walked out and took one person’s liquor license, everybody else would fall right in line,” said Hebner.

He’s not the only one calling for better enforcement of the new policy.

Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt tweeted about the proclamation Thursday morning writing in-part, “We must get decisive & issue hefty fines to the few flagrant violators, and let the rule-followers run their biz’s.”

Eiselt spoke with WBTV in a Zoom interview Thursday afternoon.

“I think right now the issue would be ‘why isn’t it being enforced’ and in particular it’s hard because there are a lot of businesses that are suffering. There’s a lot of people that are suffering that really want to just follow the rules and try to get this thing tamped down,” said Eiselt.

Deputy Chief Jeff Estes from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department spoke about enforcement of the new proclamation during a county press conference Wednesday.

Estes noted that businesses found in violation of the proclamation would first be educated about the new restrictions before being cited.

“In our country intent means everything so we wouldn’t want to unnecessarily cite at first glance a business who legitimately believed they were doing the right thing,” said Estes.

The deputy chief noted that if officers continued to observe bars breaking the rules after a warning, then the establishment would be cited.

Huebner is calling on other bar owners to follow the local government orders when it comes to social distancing and serving.

“It’s frustrating for me because we who are doing it right, get lumped into the big sum of, ‘oh if I go to Dot Dot Dot, it must be exactly like the videos I’m seeing online’, where it’s nothing like that,” said Huebner.

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