SURF CITY — After a local business owner and organizer of the upcoming Ocean Fest argued for the town to clarify its rules concerning the consumption of alcohol on streets during special events, Surf City Council is set to vote on an amendment that, if passed, would prohibit such consumption on any city streets.
At the same time, the new law would allow alcoholic beverages for events held on properties owned or controlled by the town, including Soundside Park and the Surf City Welcome Center. The proposed amendment is scheduled for a vote at the council meeting on Tuesday, which begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Welcome Center.
Cody Leutgens, owner of Shaka Taco and the Surf City Surf School, asked council members during a June 19 work session to clarify the current law, which he called “vague and contradictory.” Town Manager Kyle Breuer also asked for more clarity.
RELATED: Inaugural Surf City Ocean Fest “to surf and protect” this October
On Friday morning, Leutgens said he was not arguing his case specifically for Ocean Fest, which he founded with two friends, but instead to “make uniform and clarify what is required for special events” as an advocate for special event permits for alcohol.
The proposed amendment includes a clause that states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to consume or possess an open container of malt beverage or unfortified wine on any street, sidewalk, or alley of the town, including those temporarily closed to regular traffic for special events.”
Although the current law prohibits open alcoholic containers on town streets, sidewalks. and alleys, it provides an exception for special events whose organizers receive written approval from the town manager and obtain permits from alcohol law enforcement agencies, provided they work to “help ensure control of use and peaceful conduct.”
The current law does not allow for alcohol consumption on properties owned or controlled by the town. According to town minutes of the June 17 meeting, Councilwoman Batts “requested clarification of section 12-11 to specifically allow alcohol in the park and at the Welcome Center, but not in the streets.”
According to Leutgens, he argued his case for over an hour before Council, but certain councilmembers repeatedly mistook his appeal to include a general “drinking in the streets” provision. He said he was merely trying to make clear the rules for closing off certain sections of the street, as he and the event’s other organizers did near the Roland Avenue beach access last October.
During the meeting, Breuer stated that although he can grant the allowance of alcohol, “there is no guidance for the manager to do so.” He then asked Council to consider ammending the law by removing the word ‘street’ from Section 12-11.
“He also asked that the fire and police chief put together rules and procedures so that applicants have a clear understanding of what is and is not allowed,” according to the minutes. “He stated he would bring back an amendment at the next work session.”
Earlier, Surf City Police Chief Ron Shanahan discussed the challenges of setting up perimeters for the upcoming Ocean Fest, currently scheduled for October 10, and preventing efficient access to the south end of the town.
“His professional opinion was to move the event to Soundside Park,” according to the minutes.
Surf City Fire Chief Allen Wilson said the closing of North or South Shore Drive delays the response time of first responders.
Councilman Buddy Fowler then made a motion to “deny the ordinance amendment as requested,” according to the minutes, which was seconded by Councilman Donald Helms.
The proposed amendment allows for exceptions for special events upon prior approval from Breuer, but only for any real estate “owned, occupied, or controlled by the town government, including but not limited to public parks, sound accesses, and municipal buildings and grounds.”
“These areas mush be confined to specific locations and demonstrated with the special events application. Prior to the town manager’s approval, a review and recommendation must be provided by the Special Events Committee,” the proposed amendment states.
Overall, Leutgens believes his message to Council on June 23 was “convoluted in some way.”
“Certain members of Council thought I was suggesting people just walking around drinking on the street,” he said. “I just wanted to clarify the rules for future events.”
He believes that as the city is growing with changing demographics — which in general is becoming younger with more and more young families and Marines moving to Surf City — and special events like Ocean Fest would benefit the town as it grows.
The idea for Ocean Fest was sprung by adventure journalist and filmmaker Mark Anders to raise awareness for ocean protection and preservation efforts. Anders, along with Leutgens and Corey Snydes, created the event to accomplish three goals: “To surf, to protect, to party.”
Last year’s Ocean Fest included an “adaptive surf clinic” for young people with disabilities, along with a ‘vendor zone’ and beer garden set up at the corner of Roland Avenue and South Shore Drive.
Compare the proposed amendment with the current law below (click on the first image to enlarge):
Proposed Amendment of Section 12-11
Sec. 12-11. Alcoholic beverage possession and consumption.
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to consume or possess an open container of malt beverage or beer on the beach strand between the area between Public Beach Access #17 (300 N. Shore Dr.) and Public Beach Access #19 (200 S. Shore Dr.). This no alcohol zone is identified by signage on the beach strand as well as the public access points.
(b) Except as provided below, it shall be unlawful for any person to consume or possess an open container of malt beverage or unfortified wine on any street, sidewalk, or alley of the town, including those temporarily closed to regular traffic for special events, and on any real estate owned, occupied, or controlled by the town government, including but not limited to public parks, sound accesses, and municipal buildings and grounds.
(c) Special events may, upon prior written approval of the town manager and with permits from appropriate alcohol law enforcement agencies, be permitted to allow sales, possession, and consumption of malt beverages and unfortified wine in a specific area, provided that the applicants comply with any requirements imposed by the town manager and/or an alcoholic beverage control agency to help insure control of use and peaceful conduct.
(Ord. No. 1992-39, § 1, 12-1-92; Ord. No. 2001-28, § 1, 10-2-01; Ord. No. 2003-03-02, § 1, 4-1-03; Ord. No. 2010-11, 8-4-10; Ord. No. 2018-05, § I, 6-22-18)
Editor’s note— Possession and consumption of fortified wine, spirituous liquor, and mixed beverages are prohibited in the same locations as those listed in subsection (a) by G.S. 18B-102 and 18B-301.
Cross reference— Restrictions on possession, consumption or transfer of intoxicating liquor during state of emergency, § 6-25.
State law reference— Municipal authority to regulate possession and use of malt beverages and unfortified wine: N.C.G.S. 18B-300.
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