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Downtown boutique gets dance hall permit, seeks alcohol sales addition

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A downtown boutique was operating an illegal nightclub on the second floor, but the owner has obtained a dance hall permit and will ask City Council next month to extend alcohol sales upstairs, a city official said.
City Council on Jan. 3 approved a special use permit for A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ at 117 W. Innes St. after owner Debbie Evans told members she wanted to serve beer and wine during poetry readings and live jazz.
Evans said her boutique has an arts and literary corner but did not mention the upstairs.
The following day city officials suspended the permit, which allows the boutique to sell alcohol, after learning Evans uses the upstairs as a private club with bands, DJs, dances and parties with a cover charge.
“Ms. Evans did, in fact, have a dedicated lounge/nightclub on the second floor,” said Preston Mitchell, city planning and development services manager, in an email to other city officials.
However, Evans had obtained a review and approval by the Salisbury Fire Department for occupancy, Mitchell said.
“Any and all events she might have held in that space carried all applicable ABC permits,” Mitchell said. “Except for two events in which she was unaware of the current laws, all events have involved ‘brown-bagged’ alcohol or alcohol that was distributed for free.”
Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins sent an email to city officials Sunday saying he had issued Evans the dance hall permit required for nightclubs.
An officer visited the business late last week, Collins said.
“After discussions, I am quite comfortable with her security plan for the establishment,” he said in the email.
Evans can operate a jazz lounge on the second floor of the boutique, and customers can bring their own beer or wine, city staff said Tuesday night after the City Council meeting. Evans also can give away alcohol for free, they said.
If proprietors give away alcohol, they cannot require a cover charge for entrance, Omar Qureshi, special agent with the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division of the N.C. Department of Public Safety, told the Post.
A cover charge is considered a sale price for alcohol if it is provided by the establishment, he said.
Mitchell said Evans misunderstood the special use permit.
She was “admittedly confused by the entire special use permit process and admittedly assumed that it would have been all right to sell the alcohol downstairs and allow patrons to carry it upstairs to the lounge,” Mitchell said.
Evans could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
City staff explained to her that City Council must amend the permit to include the entire building “and that her testimony needs to explicitly describe her entire operation,” Mitchell said.
He said Evans agreed to return to City Council Feb. 7 to amend the special use permit to include all spaces, as well as immediately contact police to obtain a dance hall permit.
She also agreed to contact Patty Shuping to address an outstanding business license renewal, as well as obtain proper licensure for the nightclub space on the second floor, Mitchell said.
Evans will work with the fire department to update any occupancy concerns and modify one exterior door for egress concerns, he said, and continue to properly obtain all required ABC permits per event.
Mitchell said the city’s Land Development Ordinance defines a bar, nightclub or tavern as a place where alcohol is sold for on-premise consumption.
That definition excludes events where alcohol is given away, such as opening night for Piedmont Players, or where alcohol is brown-bagged.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

In other action
In other business Tuesday, Salisbury City Council:
• Agreed to demolish abandoned houses at 222 S. West St. and 501 N. Long St. 
Chris Branham, Code Services Division manager, withdrew his request to demolish the house at 320 S. Shaver St. because the owners began to work on the house after the demolition appeared on the council’s agenda, he said.
“Be it very little, there is still intention on their part to do the repairs,” Branham said.
So far, the owner has removed boards over windows, put up curtains and purchased paint and other materials, he said. “We want to encourage that.”
• Agreed to apply for Community Transportation Program funding and enter into an agreement with N.C. Department of Transportation to provide necessary certification and the required local match. 
The city’s commitment next year to public transit will be about $330,000, which is roughly $100,000 less than this year due to fewer capital projects and employees, Transit Division Manager Rodney Harrison said.
• Heard an update on the Norfolk Southern rail crossing closure at Horah Street. 
The city received a check for $42,000 for closing the crossing, which will help pay for a splash pad at Lincoln Park pool. The city now can apply for “quiet zone” status, which means engineers would no longer have to sound the horn at every crossing.
• Recognized the Salisbury High School Boys Soccer team for winning the North Carolina 2A State Championship.
• Received highlights and goals presentations from the Hurley Park Advisory Board, Salisbury Tourism and Cultural Development Commission, Transportation Advisory Board and Tree Board.
Last month, the council heard presentations from the Community Appearance Commission, Greenway Committee, Historic Preservation Commission and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
City commissions and boards are presenting accomplishments from 2011 and goals for 2012 in preparation for upcoming budget decisions.
• Went into closed session concerning a personnel matter and took no action.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

• Salisbury Parks and Recreation will host the 16th Annual Father and Daughter Dance from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Civic Center, 315 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Tickets are available at 704-638-5275.
• Salisbury City Council will hold its 27th Annual Future Directions and Goal Setting Retreat Feb. 9-10.
• The city needs applicants for the new Housing Advocacy Commission. Applications are available online at www.salisburync.gov under the Boards and Commissions tab and at the city clerk’s office, 217 S. Main St., or by calling 704-638-5224.
• Registration is now open for the Jr. Bobcat Girls and Coed Basketball program. Call Hall Gym at 704-638-5289 for more information.

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