Local News

Chapel Hill ratcheting up enforcement of drinking laws

Posted July 29, 2015 7:00 p.m. EDT

— Local and state law enforcement are working together on tougher enforcement of drinking laws in Chapel Hill.

The effort started before a 20-year-old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student was charged with driving the wrong way on Interstate 85 on July 19 and killing three people in a head-on collision. Authorities said he had been drinking at two Chapel Hill bars in the hours before the crash.

But the effort takes on more importance as thousands of college students return to Chapel Hill in the coming weeks for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

"Binge drinking and underage drinking has become more of a focus in Chapel Hill because there were issues with it," said Chris Carini, owner of Linda's Bar & Grill, on East Franklin Street. "In college towns in general, you will find more of a presence because there needs to be – there are more people who are underage."

Carini said all of his bartenders know the IDs of customers must be checked, or ALE will be checking on them.

"If you don't protect them, you can't protect yourself," he said of Linda's motto when it comes to customers.

The two bars linked to Chandler Michael Kania, the student charged in the fatal I-85 crash, have both been cited in recent years for underage drinking, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

La Residence, at 202 W. Rosemary St., was fined $2,400 for a sale to an underage person in 2010. He's Not Here, at 112½ W. Franklin St., faced a similar fine last year and has a pending case from April of this year.

The Chapel Hill Police Department has an investigator dedicated to alcohol law enforcement, Lt. Joshua Mecimore said. The investigator is constantly monitoring bars, restaurants and retail stores to make sure they aren't selling alcohol to anyone underage, he said.

"We're less concerned about alcohol itself and more concerned with the things that come as a result of alcohol use," Mecimore said.

Chapel Hill police are partnering with state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and the ABC Commission. Together, they will try reach students at UNC-Chapel Hill's orientation next month.

Mecimore said it's a challenge every year to reach a new wave of students who may not be familiar with enforcement policies, but the message is simple.

"If you are under 21, you are not allowed to drink. If we catch you providing alcohol to someone under 21, you are going to be charged," he said.