CEDAR POINT — Town commissioners voted 4-0 Dec. 10 to approve a special-use permit for a private bar to eventually operate in the former Cedar Point Tavern building on Highway 24.
The action during the Cedar Point Board of Commissioners’ meeting, held on Zoom, followed about an hour of discussion, and came despite longstanding problems between the town and the former business.
As a result, the special-use permit is good for only one year, although it could be renewed, and the owner, Drew Lutheran, must take major steps to clean up the property before he can submit a site plan for approval by the town. In addition, Mr. Lutheran faces up to $19,800 in $50-per-day civil penalties to the town for failing to act on previous orders to clean up the property.
Mr. Lutheran told the board Thursday if forced to pay those penalties, he couldn’t proceed.
“There’s no way I could go forward with that,” he said. “I’d just put up a fence and clean it up when I can figure out how.”
Commissioner Gary Bray initially wanted to include payment of the fines as a condition on the permit.
Mr. Lutheran has operated another business, The Yacht Club, on the Swansboro waterfront. It was severely damaged by Hurricane Florence in September 2018. The tavern building was also damaged, he said, but he currently operates Ye Olde Riverwalk, a restaurant on West Corbett Avenue in Swansboro.
Mr. Lutheran said he and his wife had suffered financially and mentally for more than two years.
“I’m willing to work with him,” Mr. Bray finally said.
Eventually, he and the rest of the board agreed to defer the fine collection and try to negotiate a settlement, which Town Administrator David Rief said is legal.
“We can talk about the fine later,” Commissioner Frankie Winberry said.
Mr. Lutheran said he could pay the town $5,000.
Mayor Scott Hatsell said the property has been a problem for the town for a long time and this temporary permit might be the best option to start getting it cleaned up.
“I agree with everything you said,” Mr. Lutheran said. “I’m ready to get it cleaned up and make it better than it was.”
The permit requires that the club, when it opens, can’t be open to the general public.
Before Mr. Lutheran submits a plan, he must show that all building code and fire code violations have been remedied.
He could be allowed to serve food and increase the capacity beyond 24, if those actions are approved by the Carteret County Health Department.
Mr. Lutheran initially applied for a special-use permit to operate a restaurant and private club in the old tavern. However, Mr. Rief informed him during the meeting neither of those were permissible under state statutes at this time.
In addition, he said Mr. Lutheran could not move forward with a plan to buy a “smoker” and cook meat to sell offsite.
Mr. Lutheran agreed to change his request to “private bar.” It would be allowed no more than 24 occupants, and he would have to have adequate parking, which had been a problem when the tavern was in operation under previous ownership. In addition, he will not be allowed under the permit to have outdoor music, which also had been a problem, according to commissioners.
The location is on the highway, but is close to residences and town hall.
When the vote came, Mr. Lutheran thanked the board.
“I will do this (cleanup),” he said. “I won’t let you down.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.