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Bar Owner Says Zebulon Officials Discriminate Against Latinos

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ZEBULON — Town planners in Zebulon want to shut down a bar that caters to the city's growing Latino community. They say it's a simple matter of a permit violation, but the bar's owner is angry about what he says is discrimination.

The bar's owner claims the trouble began when he put a new sign out front that reads "Los Chicos Del Pueblo", Spanish for "Boys Town". Town planners deny there's any racial motivation, calling it a simple permit violation. Monday night the owner pleaded with the planning board to let him keep his doors open.

It played out like a trial, with sworn witnesses offering testimony and stacks of evidence, and being cross-examined by an attorney.

Town planners want to revoke a permit from Led Zebulon, a downtown bar that caters to the Hispanic community. Zebulon's planning director says he discovered zoning and permit violations recently, when the club changed owners.

"I believe the current owner made the mistake, and it has changed hands, not to research the background and the zoning history of the site," said Zebulon Town Planner Mike Frangoas.

But new owner Neil Luxenberg doesn't think the timing is a coincidence. He believes town officials are trying to drive him out of business, and drive Latinos away from Zebulon.

"This is not an issue about a zoning issue," says Luxenberg. "This a is a simple matter of the people in Zebulon don't want Zebulon to turn into little Mexico."

The Mexican restaurant and shops scattered across downtown Zebulon are evidence of the growth of the Hispanic community. At one market, customers buy food they can't find in most stores, rent videos or buy music in Spanish, and speak their native language.

The battle over Boys Town won't end at the town hall. The board of commissioners are set to vote on the issue June 1, but Luxenberg believes it will be resolved in court.