Chapel Hill Halloween may be drier

Plans to get the annual celebration under control include $5 cover charges at bars

Staff WriterOctober 16, 2008 

— Drinking that leads to out-of-control partying on Franklin Street will be less likely to happen this Halloween.

Partygoers will find it tougher to get there, first off. There will be no more shuttle buses, so single lanes of traffic on East Franklin Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard could discourage visitors, as could police roadblocks that will turn drivers away on Raleigh Road and South Columbia Street.

Those who do find a way to get to Franklin Street will have to pay a $5 cover charge to get into a bar, and establishments that sell alcohol will stop letting patrons in after 1 a.m.

Those new restrictions are the rules worked out in a compromise between town officials and local bar owners. The police department had threatened to declare a state of emergency and prohibit alcohol sales after 8 p.m. to curb the annual revelry that had grown to 80,000 people last fall.

"I think we got their attention," said Police Chief Brian Curran, who has been working for months to figure out how to keep people away from Chapel Hill on Halloween. The town spent $220,000 managing Halloween last fall, including pay for 450 extra cops.

Curran said the cost could go up this year as he tries to enforce the new rules.

Bar owners agreed to stop selling alcohol an hour earlier than required normally under state law. They also agreed to charge a $5 cover charge unless they were holding private parties.

Scott Maitland, owner of the Top of the Hill restaurant and brewery, said downtown restaurant and bar owners and employees had stood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income with the prohibition, even though much of the alcohol is consumed before people ever arrive on Franklin Street.

"I think this is a really great move," Maitland said of the compromise.

Curran said Chapel Hill's bar capacity is no more than 6,000 people, meaning local bars accounted for only a small portion of the drinking going on during the masquerade party. The tighter rules on alcohol sales are only part of the town's approach to dampening the party.

Roadblocks will also detour people away from downtown on Raleigh Road near the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government and South Columbia Street at Manning Drive. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Franklin Street will also narrow to a single inbound lane at Estes Drive.

"We're still having a party," said Mayor Kevin Foy. "It's not rude to say, 'We're sorry, but we're full.' "

Shuttles will no longer deliver people to Franklin Street from park-and-ride lots, and, as usual, downtown streets will be closed to parking. Curran said Chapel Hill's streets will be in gridlock and probably will spill over into Carrboro.

"Not coming is going to be the smart thing to do this year," said Curran.

"I would like to apologize in advance to all the people that are going to be inconvenienced that live here. ... Our advice to people is, plan to stay in that night." or 919-932-8760

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