Marines meet with bar owners

Military representatives and bar owners are meeting today to discuss what some Marines and sailors say is an unwarranted exclusion of the military from bars in Wilmington, a newspaper reported Monday.

The meeting is scheduled for this afternoon, the Wilmington Star-News reported.

Local bar owners blame complaints from members of the military, including those from nearby Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, on out-of-date liquor laws and say that not only military members are affected. They say the law requires them to operate as private clubs with a three-day wait for membership if they want to serve liquor, the Star-News said.

Capt. Michael Ankrum, a Marine who has been three times to Iraq and is entering law school soon, said he has been turned away after doormen see his short haircut. The newspaper also said that sailors on the USS North Carolina submarine were turned away at some downtown bars in the spring.

“I always get an excuse that it's a private club,” said Ankrum. “I think it's because of the short hair.”

Bar owners said they want to ask legislators to change the law.

“It's not the business owners that are unpatriotic,” said Ian Moseley, co-owner of the Level 5 bar and president of the Association of Bar Owners And Restaurants Downtown. “It's the law that's unpatriotic.”

Moseley said Marines who complained about being denied entry one night had been allowed in another time and that he has no problem admitting Marines.

Ankrum said membership rules appear to be ignored at many establishments. He said that when he was denied entry, it was clear to him that others going inside didn't have memberships.

Although some say Marines create problems in bars, the Wilmington Police Department said Marines aren't a large problem and in 2007 were responsible for less than 1 percent of arrests in downtown Wilmington.