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Boutique can now sell alcohol on second floor

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A downtown boutique can sell alcohol on the second floor, the City Council agreed Tuesday.
A Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’ at 117 W. Innes St. won approval last month to sell and serve alcohol in the rear portion of the first floor in the shop’s literary and arts corner.
The city suspended the special use permit after learning owner Debbie Evans had been operating a nightclub upstairs for several months without proper permits.
Council members on Tuesday extended alcohol sales to the second floor after David Phillips, the city’s zoning administrator, said Evans “has done everything she can to meet the requirements of the city.”
Evans has obtained a dance hall permit, and Salisbury police have accepted her security plan, Phillips said. She is working with the city’s business license officer to obtain all required privilege licensing subject to issuance of an ABC permit.
Evans is aware of some minor fire code requirements she must complete to assure proper entrance and exit from her business, Phillips said, such as reversing the swing of a door. She is working with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission regarding exterior paint, he said.
“She is in line with everything that the city could require” to grant approval of the special use permit, Phillips said.
Evans still has to meet ALE and ABC requirements, Phillips said, and the fire marshal will make another inspection of the shop’s second entrance.
Phillips said Evans misunderstood the city’s special use permit, issued Jan. 3, and thought it allowed her to sell alcohol downstairs and have patrons carry it upstairs to the lounge.
Evans told the Post Jan. 4 she did not plan to use the special use permit to sell or serve alcohol on the second floor.
The boutique’s Facebook page has advertised parties and dances on the second floor since last fall.
All events carried applicable ABC permits, city staff said. Except for two, all events involved brown-bagging or alcohol that was distributed for free, staff said. Both are legal.
Evans called the Salisbury Post’s coverage of the issue “slanderous” and said readers would think she “had been operating completely outside the rules and regulations of the city,” when she had worked to comply with all local, state and federal requirements.
Evans said she learned respect for the law at the knee of her father, who served as a police officer for 29 years. She said the Post has not adequately covered her service to the community since she opened the boutique.
The city’s dance hall permit requirement, which Evans read, is confusing, she said. After obtaining the permit, Evans said she expects that any establishment where people could get up and dance to an instrument will be required to do the same.
The nightclub, called A Little Sumthin’ Else, features live bands, DJs and a dance floor.
Several people testified in support of Evans during a public hearing. No one spoke against her request.
The names of supporters were not clear, and the speakers declined to repeat their names to the Post after the hearing.
One supporter said the shop was granted a certificate of occupancy for 89 people months ago. The upstairs has been rented for fundraising efforts three times, each time with the proper ABC permits, the speaker said.
When the boutique advertised a full bar on Facebook on Dec. 23, 2011, a nonprofit organization had rented the shop and was operating in full compliance with a permit, the supporter said.
A local police captain was required to sign the permit, which was issued to the nonprofit group, not to the boutique, she said.
A Dec. 30, 2011, private party also was in full compliance, she said, with permits issued to the individual, not the shop.
Another supporter who said she performs poetry said the business offers people a chance to express themselves.
The nightclub caters to a mature crowd at least 35 years old, a third supporter said. Evans has given struggling artists a chance, and her business contributes to Salisbury’s developing arts community, he said.
Bill Evans, husband of the owner, asked Mayor Paul Woodson if the City Council held a private meeting after approving the special use permit Jan. 3. Woodson said no.
“As mayor and City Council, we want everyone to do well in this city,” Woodson said.
Council members needed all the facts to ensure citizens’ safety, he said.
“We opened this back up to make sure everything was correct and in order,” he said.
Councilman Brian Miller said he considered the proceeding a “clerical correction.”
“We’re here because the petitioner didn’t fully understand the special use permit,” Miller said.
City Council members did not ask questions last month about the use of the entire building, he said. Once the area covered by the permit was clarified, Miller said he saw no reason not to support the request.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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