Winston-Salem bars and restaurants are working together to curb violent crime downtown.
During the March 13 public safety committee meeting, council members unanimously endorsed an initiative created by the newly-formed Winston-Salem Bar Owners Council. The WSBOC is a part of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association and is focusing on curbing violence downtown and banning bad behavior. To do so, the WSBOC has created a window cling that establishments can display on their doors and windows. The sticker explains that within their business, behaviors such as fighting, drug use, vandalism, illegal activity, disorderly conduct, weapons possession and harassment “will result in the permanent ejection from this and other WSBOC participating establishments.
“These actions are subject to criminal prosecution. Every patron is required to abide by all posted rules and guidelines,” the cling reads.
While the sticker doesn’t explicitly mention gun violence, part of the impetus for this new initiative is the rise in gun deaths and injuries in the last few years.
According to city officials, 33 homicides occurred in the city in 2022.
During his State of the City address in mid-February, Mayor Allen Joines mentioned that the city had already seen 11 homicides this year.
According to data analyzed by Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit that advocates for gun control and against gun violence, 42 percent of convicted homicide offenders reported being under the influence of alcohol while committing their crimes.
Despite the data, the state of North Carolina passed a law in 2013 legalizing concealed carry in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as the carriers don’t consume any alcohol.
While an early draft of the window cling didn’t include any city logos, a March 14 letter from City Manager Lee Garrity to the WSBOC and Burke Street Pub owner Tiffany Howell notes that both the city and police department will provide logos for the sticker to express “solidarity and cooperation of the participants in this effort toward public safety.”
In an interview with TCB, Howell said that they wanted to get the endorsement from local law agencies and the city, and use their logos on the window cling “to let people know that we are all working together, the business owners as well as the local and state agencies to keep our establishments safe places.”
Garrity clarified that the initiative is endorsed with the understanding that the city does not represent future endorsement of other WSBOC initiatives or policy positions.
Howell said that the WSBOC has also received endorsement from the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, and the group is hoping to get the endorsement and logos from the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement as well.
Howell said that the group has “not disseminated the clings yet,” while they wait on some other agency endorsements.
A grassroots solution for bars?
According to Howell, WSBOC was founded by herself and other local business owners — George Bambalis of Recreation Billiards, Kimberly Cain of Second and Green Tavern, and Eric Zyglis of the Thirsty Pallet — in the fall of 2022.
“We put it together with the idea of having some reciprocal rules and regulations that all patrons must follow in the downtown bar district,” she said.
Howell, who is also the executive director of the North Carolina Bar Owners Association, said that the idea was to form a local chapter with an “active voice in city council meetings [and] public safety meetings and to try to come up with some ideas and solutions that would benefit all of us.”
The stickers are the organization’s first initiative, according to Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe, who spoke to the public safety committee.
Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke asked Police Chief William Penn if the initiative could be implemented in other areas throughout the city.
“This was grassroots,” Penn replied, adding that the WSPD is “on board” with the initiative and agreed with potential usage in areas outside of downtown.
Increased law enforcement presence in downtown business areas was promised by Penn and Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough during a special meeting of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership’s Public Safety Network on March 2.
Committee Chair James Taylor Jr. asked for a voice vote from councilmembers, receiving unanimous consent. Present members included committee members Burke, John C. Larson and Kevin Mundy, as well as councilmembers Jeff MacIntosh and Annette Scippio.
“We want to do it to help the bar owners,” Mundy mentioned, “but we have to do it to help ourselves. We have to have an active entertainment district as an economic development tool. These things all work together.”
MacIntosh commented that the more people that associate themselves with the organization, the stronger it will get.
“The more people that want to come on board, the greater the whole thing becomes,” he said.
James Douglas, TCB contributor and local bartender, said that Silver Moon Saloon will probably participate in the initiative “out of solidarity.” Douglas added that the bar will be taking additional precautions by posting a “No Guns Allowed” sign in their establishment and will also be getting an ID scanner so they can start a database of customers who misbehave.
Douglas said that other bars will be implementing measures like these as well.
Howell told TCB that on Wednesday, members of the WSBOC toured the police department’s real-time crime center.
“Fifteen of us representing eight different businesses,” Howell said, adding that one of the WSBOC’s goals is to encourage other bars to be part of the RTCC camera registry. In January 2022, Winston-Salem city council approved the use of a $46,000 grant that allows local businesses to register their cameras with the police and allow the police to access that footage more quickly in turn.
“Not only because of things that could potentially happen on our properties, but other street views,” Howell said.
Howell’s establishment has at least one security guard every weeknight, and three to four on the weekends.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Tiffany Howell’s role at the Burke Street Pub. She is the owner., The correction has been made, and TCB regrets the error.
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