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Deadly DWI crash resonates among Chapel Hill bar employees

Posted February 12

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— A popular Chapel Hill bar, He's Not Here, won't be serving this weekend. The establishment is closed for three weeks, part of a punishment for serving 20-year-old Chandler Kania, who stands accused of the deaths of three people in a drunk driving collision.

According to police reports, Kania drank at He's Not Here, at 112½ Franklin St., and La Residence, at 202 W. Rosemary St., on July 19 using the driver's license of an older fraternity brother. A few hours later, North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers say, Kania was driving north in the southbound lanes near the split of I-85 and Interstate 40 in Orange County when his Jeep Wrangler collided with a Suzuki driven by Felecia Harris.

Harris, 49, of Charlotte, her friend Darlene McGee, 46, of Charlotte, and Harris' granddaughter Jahnice Baird, 6, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were killed in the fiery wreck.

The aftermath of the crash has rippled through the Chapel Hill community, drawing more attention to underage drinking and proper alcohol sales and service.

Guy Murphy, general manager of Top of the Hill, a restaurant and brewery in Chapel Hill, said the increased scrutiny is welcome. "The police and some of the authorities have made it clear and maybe have been a little more intense, which I think is absolutely justified to make sure every bar, including ourselves, falls into line of the law," he said.

The town has seen a surge of enrollment in classes that educate employees of local bars and restaurants in how to spot fake IDs and how to stop sales to underage or intoxicated patrons.

"We have had a 40 percent increase in bars training and 17 percent increase in the numbers of employees trained," said Chapel Hill Sgt. Mike Mineer.

Murphy said his staff attended a seminar in November hosted by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Meg McGurk, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, says the training is crucial in a college town like Chapel Hill. She says bars have to balance making a profit and keeping all patrons safe.

"Bars and restaurants know the importance of alcohol sales to their businesses, but it's only as important, it's only good if it's to the right people," she said.

Kania's roommate told ALE agents that Kania routinely drank at La Residence and had used the fake ID for at least a month. In a search of Kania's car, ALE agents found a $14 receipt for Kania from He's Not Here, and a friend of Kania's said the bar staff there didn't check his ID before serving him that night, although the ID was checked at the door.

La Residence, also saw its license suspended. Both bars paid a $5,000 fine.

7 Comments

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  • Thomas White Feb 14, 2016
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    Exactly. If you want to say someone is old enough to vote or serve in the military they should be old enough to drink. While not related to drinking, the legal community wants to say a person under a certain age is not able to give consent for having sex, but if that same under aged person killed someone they want to charge the person as an adult. States should go back to allowing 18 year olds the ability to legally drink. Enforcing the DWI laws will be the deterrent.

  • Craig Elliott Feb 13, 2016
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    Here's an opposing school of thought: once upon a time 18 years of age was the uniform dividing line between childhood and adulthood.

    If one can be entrusted with this nation's most sacred privilege (voting) and most sacred responsibility (service) at this age then one should be wholly responsible for one's actions.

  • Thomas White Feb 13, 2016
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    In response to Charlie Watkins' (Feb 13, 5:07 a.m.) comment - The laws regarding DWI are not strong enough because there have always been elected politicians who drink and drive. Yes bar owners and the liquor industry have some influence, but the politicians are the reason. I doubt you could find a politician who does not know another politician who has not drove when they've had to much to drink.

  • Jim Hinnant Feb 13, 2016
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    Yes. Blame the business staff. I'm sure that's the answer.

  • Charlie Watkins Feb 13, 2016
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    Our drunk driving laws are not strict enough because bar owners and alcohol distributors have political power. I would love to see our drunk driving laws to be the most severe in the world. Maybe then people would not drink and drive to the danger of the innocents on the road with them.

    Sickening that anyone would drink and drive!

  • Norman Lewis Feb 12, 2016
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    We all know that a fine or 3 week suspension is only the cost of doing business in a college town for a bar. If the bars in Chapel Hill sold alcohol only to those of legal age, their profits would fall exponentially. In most cases, only Seniors in college and maybe a few Juniors would be old enough to legally consume alcohol and no one with any sense thinks only legal age adults drink in Chapel Hill or most college towns. The only thing that will curb underage drinking is the revocation of driving privileges and expulsion from college if caught drinking or using a false ID while underage. Bar employees cannot be faulted for accepting a valid ID if the picture seems to match the presenter to any reasonable person's judgment. Rough penalty? of course, but a life is more important than convenience.

  • Fanny Chmelar Feb 12, 2016
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    "Kania's roommate told ALE agents that Kania routinely drank at La Residence and had used the fake ID for at least a month."

    "La Residence, also saw its license suspended. Both bars paid a $5,000 fine."

    La Residence should have been investigated for this and, if true, had their liquor license permanently revoked with the addition that any location selling alcohol can not have La Residence's owners hands in it.