February 25, 2011

Two southern Hatteras restaurants serve first mixed drinks, while others get ready


The bartender at Capt. Rolo’s Raw Bar and Grill in Frisco served up the first mixed drink to a customer at a Hatteras Island restaurant just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Feb. 23, when the establishment re-opened after a winter hiatus.

It was a rum and coke for Gaston Foster Jr. of Hatteras village.  The second was a martini for Dave Hissey of Frisco.

After several years of trying, a referendum on mixed drinks passed on Hatteras Island in early December by a decisive margin – but only in Hatteras Township, which includes the southern island villages of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras.

Most restaurants closed for the winter after the referendum, but now they are re-opening, and many, if not most, are planning to add mixed drinks to their bar menu.

At this point, two Hatteras Island establishments have permits from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to serve liquor – Capt. Rolo’s and Dinky’s in Hatteras village.  The permits cost $1,000 for mixed drinks and a lesser amount to serve beer and fortified or unfortified wine.

On Wednesday night, Capt. Rolo’s was crowded after its long winter closure.  There were couples and family groups and a few folks just sitting at the bar.  Many, but not all, were enjoying their first mixed drink in a Hatteras Restaurant.

“It’s a momentous occasion to be able to enjoy a mixed drink on Hatteras,” said Steve Hissey, also of Frisco. 

“Times are changing,” added another customer.

It was a rush to the finish line for Capt. Rolo’s, which must purchase liquor through the Dare County ABC stores at a higher price than private consumers pay. The first delivery of liquor for restaurants did not arrive in Buxton until afternoon, just hours before Roland Mulder was scheduled to open his place.

For now, the price for mixed drinks there ranges from $5 to $9, said bartender Michelle Miller.  Some premium brands may cost more.

The next night, Thursday, Feb. 24, Dinky’s in Hatteras village served its first mixed drinks.

Manager Pam Gwin said the staff was pretty excited about it – more excited than nervous, she added.

The bartending staff has had some training in mixing and serving the liquor drinks, and has had a good deal of help from a friend in the industry.

Dinky’s had a good number of customers for a winter night on Thursday, though most did not order mixed drinks. One group of women came in and tested the Manhattans and French martinis.

Gwin said the costs for mixed drinks at Dinky’s will range from $6 to $9, with a few more expensive specialty drinks.

Other restaurants are gearing up to follow Capt. Rolo’s and Dinky’s.

One is the Sandbar and Grill in Buxton.  Jane Metacarpa, who owns the restaurant with her husband, John, was active in an unsuccessful 2007 campaign to serve mixed drinks in restaurants and in last year’s successful vote.

Metacarpa said the Sandbar will open sometime between the middle and end of March.

She said she did not realize how “really intensive” it is to prepare to serve mixed drinks.

“There is much more to it,” she said, “than I thought there would be.”

She and her staff are deciding what drinks to serve, pricing them, and entering them into the computer system that most restaurants use to tally sales.  And they have been involved with training bartenders and servers in such things as their responsibilities when serving liquor.

The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Board offers classes for bartenders and servers in its Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service Program.  It also has a shorter course online with responsible sales information, such as indentifying intoxicated customers.

The Sandbar will price drinks in the $5 to $7 range with some specialty drinks and premium brands higher. There will be a specialty drink menu, martini menu, and a shot and shooter menu, which will only be publicized during late night entertainment.

Metacarpa said that the Sandbar, which frequently has live entertainment, will not have any bands for the first few weeks, while the staff gets used to selling mixed drinks at lunch and dinner.

“I take this responsibility that has been give to us very seriously,” Metacarpa said about serving liquor.  “We’re very excited about it, but we have some anxiety.”

Some restaurant owners emphasize that they feel that serving liquor by the drink is more responsible than the previous “brown-bagging.” Before selling mixed drinks was legal, some establishments had brown-bagging permits for customers to bring in their own liquor and buy set-ups.

However, the restaurant owners with these permits were frustrated by the fact that they had no control over how much liquor was poured into a drink nor could they cut off intoxicated customers who brought their own alcohol.

Other restaurants will start serving mixed drinks soon or when they re-open for the season.  Though only Dinky’s and Capt. Rolo’s now have permits, others say they plan to obtain them, including Pop’s Raw Bar and Grill, Breakwater, and Diamond Shoals.

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