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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  • The Captain

    I really don’t think that’s the image Manteo wants. I always considered Manteo as a classic “Norman Rockwell” scene. Wholesome Family Town. Nooooooo Good.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 12:35 pm
  • Tom Jackson

    Better they are walking around on the streets drinking than driving on them.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 1:27 pm
  • Surf123

    Encouraging drinking is not the way to go. If you sell it at your establishment then control it. Your failure should not be rewarded with a public drinking district.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 1:54 pm
  • charlie

    a great idea….

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 1:57 pm
  • Jeff Walker

    I’m sure a town that only voted to allow liquor by the drink barely a decade ago will jump wholeheartedly at setting up an outdoor designated drinking zone.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 4:38 pm
  • Terrible Idea

    This is a terrible idea. This would mean that vagrant drunks would be legally allowed to loiter downtown, on the boardwalk and the Magnolia Pavilion, and legally drink all day and night. This will destroy downtown Manteo. Please don’t let this happen.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 7:52 pm
  • Just a mom

    Manteo already has vagrants. In broad daylight they camp out at the public bathroom and on the waterfront dock benches.
    Seriously, it should be fine to walk the street with a beer or wine in hand as it is certainly not nearly as offensive as that previously stated.

    Thursday, Feb 16 @ 10:00 pm
  • MSgt-OBX

    What a ridiculous proposal! It would be great for Nouvines but not for the rest of the downtown area. This idea should be rejected unanimously.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 4:25 am
  • Mountain Man

    Why is Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty here advocating for public drunkenness?

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 7:06 am
  • Get with the Times

    Socialization is important to solving mental health issues Not everyone is comfortable hanging out in a bar. It sounds like the district boundaries will be established. It may also encourage more eating places to be open in the evening. Manteo is establishing itself as a artsy gathering point and this would be a bonus for Manteo businesses I agree that most folks will drink less wondering around.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 7:19 am
  • Stephanie

    This is a GREAT idea! Everyone saying otherwise needs to get with the times! If you don’t like it, don’t go down there! Plain and simple! Maybe if there was more stuff like this to do around here then people wouldn’t resort to other things like drugs or drinking and driving when they are bored.

    Young people these days don’t want to just go sit at a bar and drink they want to do something while they are drinking, walk around, do activities, have community. The people that were going to drink and drive are still going to drink and drive with or without this.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 8:18 am
  • MoreToLife

    Why must we glorify drinking?
    NC has 100 counties. NC has 432 ABC Stores.
    In 2021 the ABC stores sales was 1.593 Billion dollars.
    What is the financial cost of alcoholism?
    The total economic cost of alcohol use disorder has been estimated to be $249 billion according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1, $27 billion of which has been accounted for healthcare costs2. The CDC projects the economic impact to society is about $807 per person, per year.
    55% of Domestic Violence is attributed to alcoholism.
    Yay. Keep on drinking! (sarcasm)

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 10:04 am
  • Billnc

    I think it’s a good idea, and I don’t drink. Why not let adults be adults? This isn’t a proposal to let people wander around obnoxiously drunk, just to let those who are responsible have a glass of wine or beer with them. If there are those elements that are drunk and obnoxious, have the police deal with them.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 10:15 am
  • Larry

    Some of these negative comments are made by the same people who say “the outer banks is changing, change with it or leave”. Talking about the build up of rentals and corporations on the OBX. Well here we have a situation where the outer banks is wanting a change. So change with it or leave. A social drinking district is way more beneficial to the community than a Target, Marshals, Starbucks, WAWA and more Candy Kingdoms.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 11:15 am
  • Steven

    Social area is a good idea as long as there’s no alcohol involved.

    Speaking of OBnoXious, where do you think the term obx originated.

    From what this place has become is where..

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 12:26 pm
  • trocar

    Artsy gathering point? Have you been downtown lately?

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 1:09 pm
  • Change sucks

    From my understanding you can already walk around manteo with beer in a cup. Nuvines must just want the ordinance to include wine.

    If beer is already allowed then wine should be as well.

    Ultimately it should be up to the tax payers of MANTEO to decide.

    Stephany, if they decide no then you just shouldn’t go down there. Plain and simple.

    And establishments are closed in the evenings because it’s the off season. Lack of business and lack of employees cause the businesses of the obx to close for a season. If you just moved here and are noticing this, get used to it. It’s the only break the area gets and everyone moving here is killing the vibe with their attitudes.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 2:51 pm
  • Joan Setty

    On New Year’s day, we were specifically told that we could buy beer in cups at
    a restaurant/bar and walk around with it. According to this article that was not true. It seems that 1998 other people were told the same. Someone needs to get their act together.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 4:04 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Presumably, if a social district was created, you could also carry alcohol on the streets on non-holidays.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 8:20 pm
  • Smart Ass

    Mark Jerkywitz is a disgrace to Dare County

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 4:20 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    In the immortal words of advice columnist Ann Landers, “I recommend you seek professional help.”

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 8:21 pm
  • Charles

    Sounds like a blast !! Looking forward to it.

    Friday, Feb 17 @ 5:10 pm