Wine bar co-owner requests ‘social district’ in Manteo

By on February 16, 2023

Proposal would allow alcoholic beverages on certain streets

NouVines co-owner Garret Cameron brought his social district idea to the Manteo Commissioners.

If town commissioners take up the idea, lawfully walking around downtown Manteo with open containers of alcohol could become a reality.

The co-owner of a Manteo wine bar gave a presentation to the Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 15 about the benefits of creating a downtown “social district”—a specific area where alcoholic beverages in designated containers are permitted on the street.

Twenty-one cities and towns in North Carolina already have social districts, according to presentation documents Garret Cameron, co-owner of NouVines with his wife Lori Wilkinson, shared with commissioners. Places with social districts range from major cities like Charlotte and Raleigh to smaller towns like Selma and Sylva.

“These are a list where you can talk to your fellow commissioners,” Cameron said, noting that those locales “have already introduced this and are already working with this program and are having tremendous success.”

To create a social district, the town must determine the exact geographic area of downtown to include in the social district and file with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, among other requirements, according to Cameron’s presentation.

While Cameron’s presentation is a preliminary step in the creation of a social district, Manteo Town Manager Melissa Dickerson said the idea is one that the Town’s Mainstreet Advisory Council has discussed, adding that officials have reached out to a local Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agent about Cameron’s proposal. If the commissioners indicate an interest in moving forward, Dickerson explained that the town would solicit community input and present a plan to the board at a later date.

In his presentation, Cameron touted the economic benefits of a social district, asserting that in other states that have them—including Louisiana, Georgia and Nevada—as well as in North Carolina, some trends have become clear.

“Virtually every district reports an increase in both taxes and merchant revenue,” he said.

Social districts increase tourism, make the downtown area a destination, provide “a broad social and cultural experience for residents and visitors” and create revenue opportunities for existing and new bars and restaurants through offering drinks to go, according to Cameron’s presentation.

“One of the more interesting facts that I found in studying the places where this already exists…is people drink more responsibly when they are on the move versus sitting down at a bar and being static,” Cameron said. The creation of social districts in other states and in North Carolina has not spurred an increase in criminal activity, he asserted.

“In fact, in most places, they’re recording a decrease in crime because people are drinking more responsibly, and there’s more people out there,” Cameron said. He noted that when “people get stupid…they get recorded now. It’s not just the cameras that are in cities, so all of these things help.”

Cameron made his presentation following conversations he said that he and other local business owners have had with ALE officers during their recent inspections.

“A large number of us all got inspected roughly at the same time, and In every case, an ALE officer brought up this,” he said of social districts.

Cameron said an ALE officer was in downtown Manteo on New Year’s Day and told him there were people with open cups, noting “at least 2,000 infractions” the officer could have charged for related to that. In such cases, ALE charges both the individual with the open container and the business from which they bought the alcohol, he added.

“ALE has given us, what I feel, a warning,” he said.

During public comment, resident Michael Basnight called both the social district idea and the idea of connecting Manteo with other area towns like Elizabeth City and Edenton with passenger ferries—another presentation given at the meeting— “interesting” and “encouraging.”


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  • Dr Lynn Duffy

    So for the $ the small town with a family atmosphere would yield to the $ alcohol may bring? Don’t think as a counselor, I want to take my family to a town that encourages open container and open air alcohol drinking. There is a reason for pubs, taverns and controlled events. If this town enables this, think our family and friends will go elsewhere. We don’t want our children exposed to this.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 11:55 pm
  • one for the road

    Let’s make “one for the road” legal

    Saturday, Feb 18 @ 7:30 am
  • Another mom

    Please honor and promote the OBX as a “family first” destination. A family atmosphere is what attracts vacationers to the OBX. Most families would be agreeable to the occasional sip and stroll event after 9 pm, but not all day and every day.

    Saturday, Feb 18 @ 10:38 am
  • The Captain

    I’ve read some of the comments thus far. One thing stands out that the Owner of the Wine Store is all about increasing business. Don’t let him fool you about Social Connection and Coming into a new age or progress. The Wine store is small and the few other establishments selling alcohol are small or limited to Restaurant consumption. The Bar Trade in Manteo is low. I say put it up to a Town Vote. Don’t be swayed by Vacationers and non Residents.

    Sunday, Feb 19 @ 7:43 am