A whiskey river runs dry

by Amy Kingsley

A late-night smackdown by NC Alcohol Law Enforcement agents on May 26 has not spoiled the party at the Flying Anvil.

But it has prompted the owners to bid a fond farewell to hard liquor, which limits their selection of alcoholic beverages to beer and wine. Owner Pete Schroth has filled the liquor void with sake, cider, a variety of wines and malternative beverages. The change means more convenience for music fans who no longer have to purchase a club membership at least three days in advance. Those who have already purchased memberships can trade them in for a free drink at the newly de-liquored bar.

‘“Or they can sell them on eBay,’” Schroth said.

Three Alcohol Law Enforcement agents entered the club on May 26 at 1:30 a.m. after signing in as guests. Booker Andrew Dudek said that he and the club owners thought this was proper legal protocol. Apparently it wasn’t. The agency charged the club with $600 in fines, $200 for each agent.

‘“We never knew if we were doing it right,’” Dudek said. ‘“We would be told one thing by [Alcohol Law Enforcement] and another by [Alcoholic Beverages Commission].’”

The confusion extended beyond the Flying Anvil’s three owners. People from as far away as West Virginia would commute to a show with tickets bought over the internet only to find they had to pay an extra three dollars for membership.

‘“People really felt like we were conning them,’” Schroth said.

Both Schroth and Dudek voiced strong opinions about the state’s approach to alcohol regulation.

‘“We really did get ticketed for doing 58 in a 55,’” Dudek said.

The Flying Anvil is one of the few bars in town that actually had a membership system.

‘“For the state of North Carolina, does that feel good?’” Dudek asked. ‘“Does it feel good that you thwarted sales and hurt somebody’s business?’”

Both owners emphasized that the change is for the better. It’s easier to host all-ages shows and there has been less stress at the door since the last show with liquor on June 24.

‘“Ultimately some people may be bummed that they can’t do shots,’” Dudek said. ‘“But most won’t even know the difference.’”