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Biz form association to ease alcohol restrictions in alley

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Attendees of the Wailin' Wednesdays concert series in Elizabeth City's downtown will no longer be confined to restricted areas in Pailin's Alley if they want to drink beer or wine.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, September 24, 2018

At­ten­dees of Wailin’ Wed­nes­days and other events in the re­ju­ve­nated Pailin’s Al­ley down­town will no longer be con­fined to re­stricted spa­ces if they want to drink al­co­hol.

A group of busi­nesses ad­join­ing Pailin’s Al­ley have formed an as­so­ci­a­tion that al­lows their pa­trons drinking beer or wine more free­dom of move­ment in the alley be­tween East Colo­nial Av­enue and El­iz­a­beth Street.

Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. Director Deborah Malenfant told ECDI’s board last week that Jim Nye, owner of Hoppin’ Jonz New South Cuisine, spearheaded the creation of what’s being called the Pailin’s Alley Collective. Thomas Reese, co-owner of Ghost Harbor Brewing, is also playing a lead role in the association, Malenfant said.

Both Hoppin’ Johnz and Ghost Harbor Brewing adjoin Pailin’s Alley. 

Malenfant said state alcohol laws initially required businesses adjoining the alley to serve alcoholic beverages only within designated fenced-in areas. That left patrons, she said, feeling like they were “penned up,” especially when bands were performing in the alley.

However, after talks with N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and city officials, the association was able to come up with a way to ease those restrictions, Malenfant said. Under an agreement with local alcohol enforcement officials, patrons of the businesses will be able to consume beer or wine in the alley between East Colonial Avenue and the fence behind Coasters Downtown Draught House.

“We are monitoring it continually to ensure that they abide by all the alcoholic beverage control laws,” Malenfant said of the businesses. “But I feel like that’s a positive partnership with our local alcohol law enforcement group in the city to kind of expand that area and increase the energy there.”

ECDI board member Spiros Giannakopoulos, while supportive of the association, asked if there would be security at each end of the alley.

Malenfant said the business owners in the association — Coasters, Ghost Harbor, Hoppin’ Johnz and the Island Breeze Grill — would bear the responsibility for providing security.

“On the nights that they are very busy, they have agreed to have enforcement at each end, (but) probably not on a regular night,” she said. “They’re really only promoting it on the nights that they have entertainment or an official activity.”

ECDI board member Geoff McNamara said he’s hopeful that areas adjacent to Pailin’s Alley remain family friendly.

Malenfant said she agreed.

Reached after the ECDI meeting, Nye said he came up with the idea for the association so that patrons of his Hoppin’ Johnz and other businesses adjoining Pallin’s Alley wouldn’t be restricted to fenced-in areas if they wanted to drink alcohol.

“It was primarily for our Wednesday night event,” Nye said, a reference to Wailin’ Wednesdays, the weekly entertainment events Nye and Reese began in July as a way to persuade more people to stay downtown at least one evening during the middle of the week.

Nye said having the association also gives businesses adjoining the alley more control over what happens there.  

If a business says, “Hey, I’m going to put a band in the alley on such and such a day,” the association can say, “Well, there’s a process now” for doing that, he said.

“It just gives us a vehicle that we didn’t have before,” Nye said.

He said association members are committed to keeping a family-friendly atmosphere in the alley.

“I mean, people come to the brewery with their kids in tow — and they’ve got games in there and stuff,” Nye said, referring to Ghost Harbor Brewing.

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