By Sally Mahan
A popular nightspot that has been a fixture in downtown Beaufort for more than 25 years may go by the wayside if a local lawyer gets his way.
John North, an attorney who owns the former Regions Bank building, filed a complaint in December with the Department of Revenue Alcohol Beverage Licensing against its neighbor, Hemingway’s Bistro on Bay Street.
The complaint claims that the bar is “detrimental to nearby residents” in the area, which is zoned for both residential and commercial. He also listed a variety of other complaints, including alleged open-container violations and other violations.
The complaint means that Hemingway’s has not been able to renew its liquor license and is operating with a temporary license until a hearing is held.
A date has not been set for a hearing.
According to Foster, North’s motive is to create apartments in the Regions Bank building, “but he says he can’t do that because of the noise in adjacent businesses, so he’s doing his best to get businesses to close down.”
One of his complaints, according to Foster, is that the bar is not compatible with residential zones.
However, “we would point out Bourbon Street in New Orleans. People live above bars there and these people expect that kind of environment when they move in.
“(North) calls the police multiple times a week,” said Foster. “His objection to renewing our license has just escalated. He is just a thorn in our side.”
When reached by telephone, North said he had “no comment beyond what we’ve said” in the complaint.
Foster said that Hemingway’s is “under intense investigation by authorities, who haven’t found us doing anything wrong. We’re fairly confident we’ll win this battle, but we have to pay expensive lawyers to fight this.
“Closing Hemingway’s would be devastating to the downtown area,” Foster said. “The heart of any downtown is the entertainment district, or what’s known as the ‘music district.’ We are a cornerstone of Beaufort.”
Meanwhile, petitions are circulating in support of Hemingway’s. There is a petition in the bar that has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
According to one supporter, “We must all rally and support the nightlife and businesses of Beaufort.”