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If it’s illegal to serve an intoxicated person, how do so many drunks end up on Wilmington sidewalks and streets after 2 a.m.?

Shannan Bowen

North Carolina law is pretty clear that it’s unlawful for anyone, including bartenders and retail clerks, to knowingly sell or give alcohol to an intoxicated person. (On a side note, it also is unlawful to sell alcohol between 2-7 a.m. in any place issued a permit from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. It also is against the law for anyone to consume alcohol in a bar or restaurant after 2:30, regardless of whether they purchased that drink before the 2 a.m. cutoff.)

So, you might ask, how do all of these laws get enforced and how do bartenders know when someone is already intoxicated?

According to the state’s ABC Commission, various agencies are responsible for enforcing the laws the ABC board creates. Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) is a division of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Local ABC boards can hire their own ABC officers or contract with local law enforcement agencies, and the sheriff’s offices or police departments also can designate an officer to enforce ABC laws.

In Wilmington, ALE officers and a group of officers from the Wilmington Police Department enforce ABC laws. It’s up to a bartender to decide whether a person is too intoxicated to deserve another drink, but sometimes signs that person is intoxicated aren’t apparent or don’t show up until after alcohol has been purchased.

And, as far as enforcement goes, it would take more resources than the city has to provide officers at each of the dozens of downtown bars and nightclubs to check whether intoxicated people are buying alcohol.

“There’s no way we can allocate the resources it can take to enforce that particular statute inside the business establishments,” said police spokeswoman Lucy Crockett.

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2 Responses to “ If it’s illegal to serve an intoxicated person, how do so many drunks end up on Wilmington sidewalks and streets after 2 a.m.?”

  1. On October 16, 2009 at 10:34 pm concerned ittizen wrote:

    It’s up to the bartenders? It seems though there must be alot of bartenders with lack of judgement. I have served bar and was quite attentive to whether or not someone had enough to drink. There were several times I had to cut people off. They got mad, but at least they are alive.

    It is a very widespread problem. Maybe if bartenders “had to answer to why they continued to serve an intoxicated person”, then this awful trend would stop.

    So many lives are ruined because people were served too much alcohol….Injuries, job losses, deaths….

    It’s time for bartenders to step up to the plate and stop serving too much booze. The more they serve, the more the person is intoxicated and less likely to make a sound decision. Many patrons may already have an underlying alcohol problem. We need to keep this in mind….Only by working together will this problem see an end.

    If we can get public smoking under control, (and we have), why then can we not get public intoxication under control?

    Concerned citizen

  2. On August 8, 2010 at 9:23 am Sally wrote:

    The USMC should do in Wilmington, what the Army does at Ft. Benning in GA.
    Not saying the Marines are a problem, but there are normally two to four groups of 5 MP’s (Military Police Officers) which walk downtown at the clubs. The casually walk in and out of each club, and you will see at least one group every 30-45 minutes.
    This keeps the soldiers in check (no one wants to go to the brig for having a good time) but their presence also keeps regular citizens at bay. While an MP could not arrest a citizen if they say something illegal, they CAN call the Police Department and detain the individual until Law Enforcement arrives. But that (here) would depend on laws, the USMC and its policies, and the WPD and USMC Lejeune MPs XO.. But hey.. its worth looking into.. It couldn’t get any worse than ehat night time downtown has become..

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