‘I had no choice’: El Centenario night club owner gets permits suspended, says reopening was worth the risk

Club shut down for repeated COVID violations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As bars reopened at limited capacity for the first time in months, one Charlotte nightclub had its ABC permits suspended.

North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control suspended permits for El Centenario, a northeast Charlotte club, that has been violating the governor’s executive order for months.

The owner of that nightclub told WBTV he knows he was opening in defiance of the order, but he said he felt that he did not have a choice.

Video posted to the public Facebook page of El Centenario shows a typical night at the club. Hundreds of people are seen dancing without any social distancing or masks.

Owner Kevin Galyan said he did try to enforce safety.

“We don’t want nobody to get sick," Galyan said. "When people come in, every person had a mask on, but of course, like a restaurant, once they come in and start dancing, they take it off.”

The order from the ABC Commission details repeated visits from state ALE and county ABC agents beginning in May.

Galyan received warnings, citations and was charged with violations, but he kept opening the doors.

“Was sitting there with the cut-off notice of the power bills and water bills and I said, ‘I ain’t got no choice,’" Galyan said. "Either I open up and take a chance or I sit at home and let them turn my power off.”

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris signed off on the summary suspension, writing that “this could contribute to a reversal of positive trends we have been seeing and increase the number of cases and spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

As other bars in Charlotte open at 30 percent outdoor capacity, Galyan said that’s not an option for him, and neither is the 11 p.m. cut off for alcohol sales.

“Our customers don’t come until 11," he said. "[It’s] the last couple hours of the night when our customers come.”

He says he will fight to get his permits back.

“Pretty sure I’m gonna get them back, probably won’t be able to open until Cooper gives us something," Galyen said.

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