May 11, 2013 10:29:43 PM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
It will likely be June before Lowndes County authorities present a proposed ordinance to supervisors that would mandate night clubs close at 1 a.m., Sheriff Mike Arledge said.
Arledge, his colleagues and the board of supervisors are working with county attorney Tim Hudson to fine-tune language in the draft that would require the establishments to close their doors at 1 a.m. and ensure the premises are vacated 30 minutes later.
Arledge approached the supervisors during their April 2 meeting, asking them to consider such a law.
He told the board that deputies were regularly receiving late night disturbance calls from business owners asking them to break up fights and neighbors complaining about noise. Violence at the night clubs posed safety risks for deputies on a number of occasions, and a lack of late night manpower meant other areas in the county were being neglected when deputies had to go to the clubs to restore order, he said.
While the city's night clubs must close at midnight, the county has no such law on the books, causing a spillover effect as patrons -- many of whom are already intoxicated -- head to the county establishments to continue drinking.
Compounding the issue is the double-capacity allowance in some of the clubs, which is particularly dangerous in the event of emergencies, Arledge said.
Some of the clubs have also failed to observe county alcohol sale laws, which dictate alcohol cannot be sold after 1 a.m., he said.
"We don't have the manpower to actually provide security at the clubs, and that's not our job," Arledge said Friday. "We would rather be out on our highways and roadways checking on our neighborhoods, and sometimes we don't have enough people to answer all these calls."
The ordinance is taking some time to draft due to the necessity for attention to detail to make sure it properly serves its purpose, he said.
"I've spoken with Tim in passing, but we've got to get together and go over some things and tailor it to what we need before we go before the board," Arledge said. "We want to make sure we don't miss something."
After presenting a proposed ordinance to the board, at least one public hearing will be required before supervisors can vote on it.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.