Corolla Light becomes OBX’s second social district

By on August 1, 2023

The Corolla Light Social District will stretch from the southern edge of the northern most CLCA walkover to the northern edge of the southernmost CLCA walkover.

Designation effectively legalizes longtime practice

With the passing of a Corolla Light Social District at the July 17 Currituck County Commissioners meeting, the county codified a longtime practice of serving alcoholic drinks to customers from the Corolla Light Oceanfront Grille for consumption on the beach.

North Carolina law prohibits consumption of open containers of alcohol—mixed drinks, wine or beer not in their original containers—in public areas unless a social district is established allowing public consumption.

The Corolla Light Social District includes only the beach area from Shad Street north to a point on the beach just south of Corolla Village Road. The Oceanfront Grille is the only business in the district, but the language in the ordinance would allow other businesses to be included.

According to Currituck County Commissioner Bob White, Oceanfront Grille had been serving drinks to their customers for years, but a recent visit from Alcohol Law Enforcement agents indicated that without a social district permitting open containers to be sold for consumption on the beach, the practice was illegal.

“They have they had been serving guests down at the Oceanfront Grille for…maybe two decades at this point. Just bring them a cocktail down to the beach or whatever,” White said. “ALE was in the area for spring break and went by…And they’re like, ‘you can’t do that.’ So this was fixing what they were doing wrong, basically.”

The new ordinance, consistent with state guidelines, has language that is restrictive. Although it does not name Corolla Light or the Oceanfront Grille, open containers must carry the logo of the business that sold the drink. The container must also clearly state that it comes from the Corolla Light Social District.

The social district has no effect, however, on beachgoers who bring their own beer or wine in the original containers—bottle or can—to the beach, a point Corolla Light Manager Ben Stikeleather emphasized.

“You can still bring a cooler full of beer that you bought at the store…It specifically applies to allowing the open mixed beverages to be carried out from the restaurant,” he said.

The use of social districts to allow open containers within certain well-defined areas is an outgrowth of COVID indoor dining restrictions, added Stikeleather, who was Currituck County Manager until August 2021.

“The way that the social districts came about was during the pandemic. Specifically, they expanded this to all ABC establishments to serve alcohol in…common space…since they couldn’t be indoors,” he said. “It just fits perfectly with the Oceanfront Grille here at Corolla Light because it’s one of the only oceanfront restaurants on the Outer Banks.”

The Corolla Light Social District is the second social district established on the Outer Banks. In April of this year, Manteo designated much of its downtown area as a social district. At the time, Manteo became the 32nd North Carolina community to establish a social district.

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