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Chapel Hill to turn off taps early on Halloween

Posted October 15, 2008
Updated October 16, 2008

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— Downtown restaurants and bars will close their doors to new patrons an hour early on Halloween night, and convenience stores will either have to close at 1 a.m. or stop selling alcohol, officials said Wednesday.

The alcohol restrictions, which downtown businesses agreed to enforce, were the latest in a series of moves by Chapel Hill officials to rein in the revelry of the annual Halloween bash along Franklin Street.

Officials already announced that traffic would be diverted away from downtown – parking will be prohibited on several downtown streets as in years past – and that Chapel Hill Transit buses would no longer serve as shuttles to the event from area Park-and-Ride lots.

The moves are designed to keep people from coming into Chapel Hill from other areas to party, officials said.

"It's just like any party," Mayor Kevin Foy said. "If you have a party at your house, you can only accommodate so many people, and it's not rude to say, 'We're sorry, but we're full.' I think that's what we are saying."

Last year, about 82,00 people attended the Halloween event – more than 50 percent larger that Chapel Hill's population of 54,000. The town spent $221,000 to employ 400 law enforcement officers, clean-up crews and emergency medical personnel.

University of North Carolina administrators agreed to ask officials at other college campuses – both within and outside the UNC system – to discourage their students from going to Chapel Hill for Halloween.

In a recent survey, nearly a third of downtown business owners reported a negative impact from the Halloween celebration. Sixty-four percent of merchants also said their businesses were damaged during the revelry.

Alcohol has always been banned from the festival area, but officials said they wanted to limit drinking that night as much as possible.

"Most of the alcohol that's consumed is not purchased in our downtown," Police Chief Brian Curran said.

By closing bars and restaurants early, crowds that will be leaving Franklin Street must also leave the downtown area, Curran said. Franklin Street also will reopen to traffic at midnight to help disperse crowds, officials said.

"There's good news and bad news about Halloween on Franklin Street," he said. "The good news is that the town of Chapel Hill is making changes to reduce the size of the event and make it safer for the local community. The bad news is that, if you're from out of town, you will have a difficult time getting anywhere near Franklin Street. Find somewhere else to celebrate."

In addition to preventing sales after 1 a.m. – normal closing time is 2 a.m. – officials said bars and restaurants would be required to collect a minimum $5 cover charge after 10 p.m. from all patrons not attending a private party.

Town leaders want to brand the Franklin Street celebration "Homegrown Halloween" to emphasize its local nature.


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  • blueline727 Oct 16, 2008

    This article doesn't clearly explain the details, but local bars and restaurants will NOT be required to stop serving alcohol at 1 am. They will however, have to close their doors to new patrons at that time. Those already inside can still purchase alcohol until 2 am.

  • Tax Man Oct 16, 2008

    Cookie Me Elmo - got it! That was Justinm on the CH Cop who said they were going to check licenses. Then another Orange County officer explained that was illegal and the police would not be checking IDs - appreciate your comments. Have fun!

    If the Town of CH wants a Private Party they should have it in a venue they can legally control - say renting a hotel or convention center - but if they want to have it "in the streets", then they need to allow anyone sober and law-abiding to attend. Their choice. Or, as my prior suggestion, run it like Raleigh does First Night - it seems to work just fine with little problems - but that IS run by the City - here CH says they do NOT operate the party! So if it is not their party why are they trying to control it? Oh yeah, typical liberal mindset - ok for our private group, but no one else. Happy Halloween - see you all on Franklin Street!

  • mpheels Oct 16, 2008

    Most bars in CH charge a $3-$5 cover anyway, especially on Halloween to help control the crowd, so that part isn't a huge deal. Last call at 1am will cause some lost $ for bars, but not much as they are all too crowded on Halloween to get a drink anyway. The big problem here is that the 1am/$5 thing is based on the fallacy that most of the drinking on 10/31 happens in bars. It doesn't. It happens in dorm rooms, apartments, and houses. Very few are getting drunk on Franklin, they are showing up drunk. The only way to force less alcohol at Halloween would be to suspend alcohol sales for the entire month of October then set up check points to make sure no one brings in alcohol from other counties. So, it's basically impossible to really reduce the alcohol use through force.

  • Warden Oct 16, 2008

    I, too, agree with you, will_w202. Let the locals enjoy a safer kind of festivities. I'm not one of them, and I've only been to that Halloween event one time, but I can well remember and understand how all of the added influx of non-locals can make things go from somewhat hectic to insane. Let people create events in our own communities, and that way we'll all be able to celebrate with people from our own neck of the woods!

  • Common Sense Man Oct 16, 2008

    Tax Man, I meant the original post, not yours. I was too lazy to go back and find it. ;-)

  • justinm Oct 15, 2008

    potinfoforcops- thats great news. a chapel hill police officer did tell a group of students that exact thing though. he said that you MUST have some form of ID that shows you are a resident of chapel hill for you to enter the street. It was at the notre dame game in line for an atm.

  • Tax Man Oct 15, 2008

    Raleigh seems to do a good job managing the downtown area on New Year's Eve with First Night. Maybe CH should use that as an example. Charge a reasonable fee, give people badges to wear showing they paid - keep the alcohol, gangs and drugs off the streets - and party down. Seems to work OK - and they do allow you to come in from anywhere, not just Raleigh residents. Plenty of parking nearby - You might try it!

  • Tax Man Oct 15, 2008

    Hi Cookie Me Elmo - I did not quite understand your post:

    "the CH cops cannot unilaterally keep non CH residents from coming to the public areas of CH any time they please, including Halloween - if they try that stunt they will be looking for new jobs!"

    I think the original poster misheard.......

    What did I mishear? Someone posted a comment that he/she had spoken to a CHPD officer who said they would check IDs and not allow anyone into the public area around Franklin Street unless they had a DL with CH address - my comment is that is illegal and cannot be done in the public areas of CH. A LEO confirmed this in another post after mine. Hope you have a very nice Halloween!

  • Common Sense Man Oct 15, 2008

    14ā€‘447. No prosecution for public intoxication.

    (a) No person may be prosecuted solely for being intoxicated in a public place. A person who is intoxicated in a public place and is not disruptive may be assisted as provided in G.S. 122Cā€‘ 301.

  • RonnieR Oct 15, 2008

    I think the rev is an oleder person, it actually used to be a misdemeanor to be drunk in public. But some do gooders said is was an illnes not a crime. No longer could you just ask a drunk to step out on the street and bust'um. Took away a good tool, just as when the outlaw statute was repealed and no longer in NC could anyone be wanted dead or alive.