Wilmington bottle store ceases outdoor music after city violations. New code may prevent future shows

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Seagate Bottle Shop is suspending outdoor music as it appeals to several zoning violations issued by the City of Wilmington. (Photo by Port City Daily / Williams)

WILMINGTON – Seagate Bottle Shop has agreed to suspend its outdoor live music for a month as it seeks to rectify several zoning violations in the city. However, under Wilmington’s new land use code, the company is unlikely to be able to host a concert under its fairy lights again.

That’s because the new code, which comes into effect on December 1, prohibits amplified sound within 1,000 feet of a residence. Some existing sites, such as the Wrightsville Beach Brewery and the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, will continue to be non-compliant uses. Since the Seagate Bottle Shop, located on Oleander Drive, is currently operating in violation of the code, it is likely not eligible for grandfather protection.

Due to a pending appeal regarding the violations, currently being considered by the board, the city declined to comment on how Seagate Bottle Shop works. Owner Matt Dunn told the Port City Daily that based on his discussions with zoning staff, he would no longer be able to host performances.

“I hate to see a small business, especially when it’s mine, you know, being kind of a bulldozer,” Dunn said. “This is how I feel and it might not be how everyone sees it. But we’re not trying to do anything crazy here, and we have great support from the community and the people of Wilmington, as well as the number of local charities we work with.

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In June, Seagate received an infringement notice for operating as what the city considers a “nightclub” – unauthorized use under the property’s current zoning. In addition, he had built a small triangular stage at the front corner of the property without a permit and was hosting events, according to city documents.

Site inspections were triggered by an “anonymous board”. Zoning administrator Christopher Hatcher confirmed during a recording at Seagate that an outside group had been set up to perform on the unauthorized platform. Emails to Hatcher include screenshots of Seagate’s Instagram promoting music events.

Seagate is in the process of remedying some of the violations with the city. Owner Dunn and his attorney Matt Nichols have requested that the board hearing continue to postpone consideration of the appeal after December 1, when the new land use planning code comes into effect. The new code allows nightclubs in the community’s business district, which the majority of Seagate property is located on. As part of the most recent extension request, the parties reached a deal to suspend outdoor music in November.

To the right of the Seagate building, where the stage is built, the property is zoned as office and institutional, which does not allow nightclubs under the current or revised development code. Dunn believes they should be able to rezone the rest of the property to community affairs barrier-free and then be in compliance.

“The violations I have after 1/12 will no longer be violations,” Dunn explained. “But they were going to continue to prosecute and persist with these violations unless I agree not to have live music outside during the calendar month of November.

“And in their mind, I won’t be allowed to have live music here beyond the calendar month of October anymore because of the new code.”

Since the new code adds bars and nightclubs to the list of permitted uses in community businesses and several other new zoning districts, it also includes a new ban on outdoor amplified music for businesses (more , breweries and restaurants) that are within 1,000 feet of single-family residential zoning.

“These areas tend to be closer to residential areas than some of the other areas in which bars and nightclubs were allowed,” Kathryn Thurston, the city’s zoning administrator, wrote in an email. “To help mitigate the potential impact of these uses on any existing residential uses nearby, the city has established separation standards for outdoor activities. “

The Live Oak Bank pavilion at Riverfront Park will not be affected by the change as it is located in the Commercial District, one of the few shopping areas where the amplified sound ban will not apply. The current city noise ordinance, updated in 2019, also exempts city-owned sites, such as Greenfield Lake and Riverfront Park.

City zoning will oversee amplified noise violations, while the Wilmington Police Department will continue to enforce noise violations. Businesses that fail to comply with the land use planning code receive a notice of violation and have 30 days to appeal or make corrections before the city begins issuing citations. These tickets start at $ 100 and each subsequent violation costs $ 200 per day.

In a joint meeting with city council and the town planning commission to discuss amplified sound changes in July, Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes said sound was one of the “biggest complaints” over the years. last years. Several neighbors spoke out during the session against noise from neighboring businesses infiltrating the Seagate community. One person specifically called Wrightsville Beach Brewery; another referenced bar building outdoor seating and concert stages facing the neighborhood.

In 2019, as the city drafted changes to its noise ordinance, Wrightsville Beach Brewery received a $ 250 bill while hosting a fundraising concert for Surfers Healing, a nonprofit that teaches children with autism surfing. At the time, the owner said a neighbor had filed noise complaints for more than two years.

Most of the larger events at Seagate Bottle Shop, which is less than a mile from Wrightsville Beach Brewery, also benefit nonprofits, Dunn said. In addition, the shows attract the community.

“Our interest is just to help local artists have their voices heard and to have people around to appreciate them,” Dunn said.

Dunn is applying for a permit after the fact for his fenced bridge and triangular platform, but those requests have been put on hold while the appeals process for the violations is underway, he said. The owner of the bottle shop admits he did not do due diligence before building the bridge, but believes the majority of violations should be addressed once the nightclub is licensed on the majority of the property in December.

“It was partly my ignorance of this whole system because this is my first attempt, attempt [at] that kind of business, ”Dunn said.

As the weather cools, Dunn said he plans to recall the events and only welcome musicians inside on a smaller scale. At first, he hoped to eventually join other companies to protest the ban on amplified sound, because he does not have “the pockets deep enough to fight this fight for everyone”. But now it’s unclear how many companies the change is actually having an impact, or how many are operating in non-compliance and have yet to receive notices of violation.

“I am not going to give up my fight to continue providing live entertainment to our community,” he said.


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