Officials discuss ongoing issues with club owners

Published 11:41 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

Those who listen to 105.3 radio station may soon hear downtown nightclub owners talk about keeping juveniles, drugs and weapons out of their businesses and coming in to have a good time.

The idea of these public service announcements evolved out of a meeting among downtown club and lounge owners and city officials Friday afternoon.

City officials made clear they don’t want to shut down any businesses downtown because they contribute to Selma’s tax base.

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“We’re not trying to castigate any of the club members at this meeting,” Ward 8 councilman Corey Bowie said. “We want to bring all the partners together and not alienate club owners. We want to implement safety plans to curtail some of this.”

Outside downtown clubs, earlier this year, a guard was shot to death and another young man lost his life in a shooting.

This atmosphere will not attract tourists or residents to use the Riverfront Park or attend concerts at the proposed amphitheater, Bowie said.

“We want the club owners’ support,” he said.

City attorney Jimmy Nunn handed each of those club owners or their representatives in attendance a 1994 ordinance that outlines what club owners should do to ensure safety downtown and for their patrons.

Among other items, the ordinance calls on club owners to hire security guards and have those guards wear clothing that separates them from others on site. Additionally the guards would undergo training session from the police department on procedures to follow and actions to take when an incident occurs.

The ordinance also calls for club owners to purchase some kind of metal detector for use at each entrance. Selma chief of police William Riley said club owners could use hand-held detectors instead of the more expensive ones installed in doors.

George Sturdivant of Southern Comfort Lounge said his guards are good at frisking individuals and didn’t see the need for metal detectors. But Riley countered by saying during these days, a metal detector is better to ensure weapons don’t get into the clubs.

Clyde Richardson of The Entourage said he had spent thousands of dollars attempting to comply with city regulations for licensure and safety, only to see competitors ignore the ordinance and succeed.

“If I can’t beat them, I’m gonna join them,” he said. “It’s cheaper to join them.”

Riley said the police department would not tolerate any illegal activity inside or outside the clubs. He promised compliance raids.

He asked owners to have their DJs remind everyone to go home after the club closes and to have a good night.

Owners agreed their DJs could make the announcement several times during the night.

Despite all the safety measures, Riley said nothing would be perfect. “We know human nature,” he said. “There’s always going to be a knucklehead somewhere. We’re just asking you to work with us.”

Fire chief Mike Stokes said club owners should plan an appointment with the Selma Fire Department soon to undergo an inspection during non-business hours.

Stokes is working on a checklist for club owners and firefighters to share, which would ensure compliance with city fire codes. After an inspection, the club owner would have 30 days to correct any deficiencies before another inspection. If those issues remain unresolved, then “we’ll do something, if there is not a legitimate reason,” Stokes said.

City officials and club owners seemed to agree more communication among those who run the lounges about possible troublemakers or issues would prevent incidents.

“A majority of fights begin at one particular club, then carry over to another,” Bowie said. “If one owner picks up the phone and calls another, this could be avoided.”