A group of Yazoo City night club owners left frustrated Monday after attempting to discuss a new ordinance with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.
Roy Harrington, owner of Jay’s Place on Broadway, and Louis Ingram Jr., owner of The Squeeze Inn on Canal Street, asked the board to compromise with club owners on closing times.
They were placed in the “public comments” section of the meeting where the board provides three minutes to speak, but does not respond to questions.
“Can you explain the new ordinance,” Harrington asked.
“No, we cannot,” Delaware responded. “Not during this time.”
“We’re here mainly because of the (earlier closing) time,” Harrington said. “We’re asking that y’all compromise with us. Most of us don’t open until 10 o’clock, and if we have to close at 12 we don’t have time for business. A lot of people don’t even come out until 11 o’clock. Some people don’t even get off of work until after 10. You’re practically running us out of business. Let’s get together and compromise.”
“Can we set up a meeting,” asked, Angie Clay, with L&L Lounge from the audience.
“Not at this moment, I’m running a meeting, but you can call my secretary,” Delaware said.
“Was there a referendum or what was the protocol,” asked Ingram. “How did you guys all of a sudden come up with requiring us to close at 12 o’clock?”
“Thank you so very much for coming, but while we can hear your appeals during this time we can’t answer them,” Delaware responded. “What you can do is read the ordinance, and then come by my office if you have any questions I will make every attempt to answer them.”
“I’ve been there, and that’s why I’m here today,” Ingram said.
Ingram said that all of the contact information for Yazoo City’s club owners are on file at city hall, and he believes they should have been contacted about the changes that would affect their businesses.
After the meeting Ingram, Harrington and Clay met with The Herald to tell their side of the story.
Also participating in the meeting were Rome Johnson and Sullivan Johnson with the Teflon Event Center, Robert Johnson with Smoke’s Place, and Demmetrious Hawkins, owner of Pinky’s.
Harrington took issue with the city placing him during the “public comment” section of the meeting because said he went by city hall and filled out the paperwork to be placed on the agenda. He said the forms required him to list his reason for speaking to the board so city officials had time to prepare a response.
The group said the points they wanted to make to city officials included:
1. Requiring the clubs to close at midnight will put most of them out of business.
“People aren’t going to pay a cover charge just to stay for an hour or two,” Ingram said. “During the summer months it doesn’t even get dark until around nine. People are working or having family time until dark, and by the time they get cleaned up and get out it’s at least 10.”
2. Clubs that haven’t had violent incidents shouldn’t be punished for what happened somewhere else, and club owners can’t help what happens off of their property.
“I’m willing to be accountable for what happens at my business,” Ingram said.
“We’ve followed the rules, but they keep changing the game as we go along,” Harrington added.
3. Many residents who want to go to night clubs are simply driving to other communities that allow their nightclubs to stay open later.
“Young people are still going out,” said Harrington. “Now a lot of them are just driving to Jackson. That means if they have a drink, they’re going to be on the road coming back.”
4. Night clubs are legal businesses that provide jobs in the community, and many of those jobs may soon disappear as revenue declines.
“We pay our bartenders, DJs and security,” said Ingram. “If we keep losing business I don’t see how we can keep paying everyone. It’s going to hurt people right here in our community.”
5. Closing night clubs earlier will not stop gun violence.
Yazoo City Police maintain that closing the clubs earlier has already resulted in a safer environment. The club owners say that is not the case.
“Clubs don’t kill people, idiots with guns do,” said Harrington. “We know the people who were killed, and we sympathize with their families.”
“Most of the murders that have happened here weren’t in clubs,” said Sullivan Johnson. “We don’t condone the violence.”
Ingram said the crowd at The Squeeze Inn is typically around age 40 and up, and that age group is much less likely to cause trouble.
“We’ve had very few problems,” he said.
Harrington said blaming the clubs for the violence is like blaming the police for not stopping it.
The group said that Yazoo City’s night clubs were safer when off-duty police officers were allowed to work as security officers. They said that the city stopped allowing officers to work second jobs as security for the night clubs.
“People automatically have more respect for someone they know is an officer,” Harrington said. “They’re much less likely to do something stupid with a police officer around.”
The group said that they are not satisfied with the results of Monday’s meeting, but if they city will not meet with them they plan to seek legal action.
“We didn’t want to do that, but it doesn’t look like we have any choice,” Harrington said.