Getting to Know the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill in Raleigh, NC
The Downtown Sports Bar and Grill in Raleigh, NC is at the center of a heated controversy stemming from racial discrimination allegations from a Morehouse College alum Jonathan Wall. Yesterday, the Digest posted on the initial blog post from Wall courtesy of North Carolina Central professor Philip Christman. The story also ran on the Gawker network courtesy of Jezebel. Big traction.
Since then, legal counsel for the bar has maintained that the employee didn’t act in a discriminatory way towards Wall, because he was in the facility without being a “member,” and that membership is “a part of their liquor license with the ABC Commission.”
Calls to the Sports Bar this morning went unanswered, and without an opportunity to leave a voicemail message. So I put in a call to the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which heads the permit granting for liquor sale and distribution in the state. A spokesperson, who was extraordinarily helpful in obtaining the statutes and guidelines around permits and sellers, directed me to more specific info about the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill.
Turns out, it does operate as a membership-based organization, with its most recent private club permit renewal being approved in April of this year.
But that’s not the heart of the issue on this case. ABC statutes require that private clubs meet a certain standard of information provision to operate as liquor sellers, outlined in this excerpt from the NC General Statutes Chapter 18B:
(c) Mandatory Requirements. To qualify as a private club, a facility shall meet the following requirements concerning membership:
- collect an annual membership fee separate from any admission or cover charge, no dues from which shall be more than 30 days past due;
- maintain a written policy on the granting of full and limited memberships;
- require each prospective member to complete a written application that contains questions directly related to the applicant’s interest in the social, patriotic, fraternal or recreational purpose of the club, the applicant’s qualifications for membership, and the applicant’s background;
- retain each completed application, if approved, in the organization’s permanent records as long as the individual’s membership continues;
- issue written or printed evidence of membership to each member, which evidence of membership or other reasonably reliable document of identification shall be in the possession of each member present on the licensed premises;
- maintain on the premises a current alphabetical roster of all members and their complete addresses;
- and maintain and provide to each member a written policy concerning the use of facilities by guests.
Does the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill have a posted sign alerting outside patrons that there is a membership requirement for entrance? If there are events where non-members are allowed into the facility, what are the terms of selectivity for who gets in and who doesn’t? Was everyone in the bar that night a member? Is the bar in compliance with the above listed mandates from the ABC, and those outlined in North Carolina law?
And most of all, was Jonathan Wall presented with a reasonable opportunity to learn more about how to become a member of the organization?
Here’s the official word from ABC on the matter.
“ABC permit violations are brought to the state ABC Commission by state Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE operates statewide) or local designated alcohol law enforcement. We have not received a report of violation from law enforcement for incidents from last weekend at this location and without that we can’t speculate what sanctions might apply.”
In five minutes, Wall will hold a press conference and hundreds of black folks will descend on the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill in Raleigh, NC demanding answers. Hopefully, they will have more of a response than this dress code sign.