Downtown sports bar may be delayed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Maintenance and repair issues with a downtown building may delay plans for a nighttime sports bar.
Salisbury City Council put off acting on a special-use permit Tuesday that the J&L Sports Bar/Tavern would need to operate at 206 S. Main St.
Jay Withers, one of the partners in the proposed sports bar, said the business would take up about 3,000 square feet on the first floor and be open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Patrons would have to use the on-street parking on South Main, Withers said. In answer to a councilman’s question, Withers said the bar would have on-site security, probably off-duty police officers.
The owners have ordered numerous video game machines for the bar, Withers said.
Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., told council the building has an absentee landowner who should address serious maintenance problems with the building before any tenant moves in.
Council would be doing Withers a favor to deny the special-use permit until repairs are made, Hemann said, adding that a business deserves more than broken windows and holes in the roof.
Hemann distributed photographs to the council showing the building’s condition, which he said has deteriorated since 2000.
Downtown Salisbury Inc. also is an interested party because it owns the Empire Hotel and is working on a redevelopment proposal for that property, purchased last year for $1 million.
Barbara Perry, a nearby resident on East Bank Street, said neighbors want more information on what kind of sports bar it will be. Patrons outside a bar at Church and Horah streets sometimes can be loud and boisterous, she said.
“There is definitely an urban etiquette that needs to take place,” Councilman Mark Lewis said.
Steve Haines, pastor at First United Methodist Church, which is located behind the 200 block of South Main, noted that the church has a pre-school Child Development Center and after-school program and is getting ready for a $3 million expansion.
At night, patrons of the sports bar may sometimes be sharing parking spaces in the back with First United Methodist members, he said.
The church welcomes and is excited about a new downtown business but also would like more information about the proposed establishment, according to Haines.
Councilman Bill Burgin expressed concern that the church pre-school program was close by.
“I’m nervous on that,” he said and suggested that the Land Development Ordinance should include language that includes daycares, churches and pre-schools with “schools,” which are defined as K-12.
The city ordinance says no facility serving alcohol should be within 500 feet of any lot containing a school.
Councilman Pete Kennedy noted that the church pre-school and after-school programs operate at a time when the sports bar would not be open.
Mayor Susan Kluttz said the council has experience with bars that conflict with their neighbors and the past history would suggest that the council should be cautious.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson noted how residents in the old Cheerwine building on East Council Street had noise problems late at night and early in the morning with patrons of the 315 club. Things seem to be under control now, Woodson said, crediting the club’s owner.
Woodson agreed with Kennedy and said “I think it (the sports bar) can be controlled.”
Kennedy said the council could always rescind the special-use permit if the sports bar was causing problems, and he encouraged the council to approve the permit.The Planning Board unanimously favored a permit for the business, and other places serving alcohol are close by, Kennedy noted.
The Blue Vine operates across the street, Councilman Mark Lewis said, and it usually has live music until 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Friday and Saturdays.
Benchwarmers, Club Zidi’s and Cartucci’s also are bars or have bars in the downtown near the proposed new business.
Lewis said the council owed it to Withers to have more discussions with him and the building’s owner.
Withers said his landlord has promised to make some repairs.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka