Lake Norman & Mooresville

Huntersville eases ban on alcohol at public events

Huntersville has eased a long-standing ban on alcohol at public events, putting in place its own rules as it moves to tap into the enthusiasm for craft beer that has swept the Lake Norman area.

Under a new policy commissioners unanimously approved in early March, licensed vendors are allowed to sell beer and wine at festive gatherings organized or sponsored by the town. The policy also applies to municipal property, particularly indoor facilities.

The idea is to draw more people to a town that is trying to reinvent itself, to “make sure our festivals are well attended,” Mayor John Aneralla said. The first public event where people could buy alcohol is in mid-May, at the arts and music festival Hello Huntersville.

The policy applies to only the selling of beer and wine; people are still prohibited from bringing their own alcohol, and liquor remains forbidden.

It is allowed only at gatherings where drinking is not considered inappropriate, such as music festivals, said Parks and Recreation Director Michael Jaycocks, who helped create the policy. He added that alcohol would remain banned at more family-friendly gatherings such as the Huntersville Christmas festival, one of the town’s biggest events, or baseball and softball games.

“We’re going to try to be careful,” Jaycocks said. He noted that people must remain in a certain area when drinking alcohol, lest they break the law.

Discussed publicly at least twice before being adopted, the policy was met with no resistance. It was reviewed by the town’s police department, which will station at least one officer at a given gathering.

For vendors, they must apply for a special permit from the parks and recreation department, as well as a separate one for $50 from the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control system. They are responsible for checking identification and cleaning up afterward, and they are required to serve their drinks in plastic cups or aluminum cans.

Should the town deny their request, applicants have the option of appealing the decision.

Huntersville officials started considering ways to ease alcohol restrictions at public gatherings as far back as early last year, Jaycocks said. He cited an increasing number of requests in recent years that the town do so, including from breweries.

The policy is based on similar ones in Cornelius and Kannapolis. It replaces state law, which had long prohibited alcohol in public places.

Beyond allowing alcohol at some of its nine public events, the town is open to other ideas, including holding a wine fundraiser at a tennis complex in North Mecklenburg Park. It also will likely permit alcohol sales at the planned Veterans Park, for which the town plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony this summer.

The new policy comes as Huntersville is taking steps to make itself more accommodating for breweries, reviewing its zoning laws to allow such establishments to operate downtown instead of confining them to commercial or industrial areas.

While it appears that the town is home to only one, Primal Brewery, north of downtown, it hopes that more will open in the future.

“Alcohol does help draw people,” Jaycocks said.

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: