Cheers! Salut! Bottoms Up!

Sundae Horn
Cheers! Salut! Bottoms Up!

Alcohol sales to return on October 14. 

At the October 7 Hyde County Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate alcohol sales on Ocracoke beginning Monday, October 14. 

On that same night, the curfew will change from 10pm to 11pm. One more hour of revelry! 

Ocracoke has been under a state of emergency since the mandatory evacuation began on September 2. Alcohol sales on the island have been prohibited. Contrary to some rumors, alcohol possession and consumption has been legal during this time. (I talked to some people who were worried that their cars would be searched at the ferries when they returned to Ocracoke. LOL. I came home with 12 cases of beer clearly visible in my minivan, no questions asked. I used them as thank you gifts for the friends who helped with our clean-up.) 

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have been adamantly opposed to the alcohol ban since the island started its recovery process. Banning alcohol sales simply funneled money from our locally-owned Variety Store to off-island businesses. It has also delayed the opening of two island businesses that weren't damaged by the flood, 1718 Brewery and Zillie's. Also, I find the concept demoralizing and condescending. We are not children or hooligans! 

Part of my frustration with the ban stemmed from the changing rationales that county representatives gave.

At at meeting for lodging and restaurant business owners a week after the storm, facilitated by county manager Kris Noble, commissioner Tom Pahl, and county health inspector Hugh Watson, the possibility of reinstating alcohol sales was discussed. The crowd was divided, but not divisive. Many expressed concern that we didn't need to add to the burden of law enforcement. I'm not going to quote anyone, but let's just say that more than a few people said something along the lines of "Who wants 500 drunk contractors running around?" and "We don't know all these people on the island." But most people thought the adults on the island could handle their liquor and voiced no objection to lifting the ban as long as our deputies were comfortable with it. Kris agreed to talk to law enforcement. 

At the September 29 Town Hall Meeting, we learned that it was the ferry situation keeping us from tossing one back. Former county commissioner and current gadfly John Fletcher raised the question early on in the 3-hour meeting, calling the alcohol ban "disrespectful to the people of the island." Kris Noble answered, "It has nothing to do with trust for you all." She explained that the storm destroyed overnight ferry housing on Ocracoke, and so the ferry system couldn't stage an overnight boat for emergencies. Opening up the Route 12 four-wheel drive access is part of the solution – a ferry can spend the night at Ocracoke's South Dock (which is at the north end of the island.) Kris assured the restless, thirsty crowd that the taps would flow "probably in a couple of days."

At the October 7 BOC meeting, commissioner Tom Pahl reported that the sheriff's department "is okay with lifting the ban on alcohol sales as long as there's a ferry here overnight." However, he told the meeting, which included a crowd of 50+ on the Ocracoke side of the sound, that the alcohol ban is linked to free disaster food distribution. As long as we need to be fed by volunteers, we don't need to buy alcohol, beggars can't be choosers or drinkers – or so the thinking goes. (I assume. I can't find anything to back up Tom's statement on the NC law website.) Tom says he learned this rule from the state emergency management team assigned to the island. Since the Baptists who've been feeding us are already planning to serve their Last Supper on October 12th and leave the island on the 13th, the Ocracoke Control Group* agreed to ask the commissioners to lift the ban as of October 14th. We can all raise a glass to the Baptists on Monday night. (Go and thank them in person before they leave!)

Ocracoke remains under a state of emergency. That allows the county to continue to restrict access to the island and keep a curfew in place.  

*Despite repeated requests by the Current and others that the Ocracoke Control Group publish their meeting times BEFORE they happen and put out a statement after, we learned at the BOC meeting that the Control Group had met earlier on Monday, with no public announcement beforehand. 


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