August 16, 2013 10:35:08 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Beginning September 14, all Lowndes County nightclubs must shut their doors by 1 a.m.
Prior to supervisors passing the ordinance Thursday, there was no law on the books requiring establishments to close at a specific time. Earlier this year, Sheriff Mike Arledge requested that supervisors address the lack of a rule on the matter.
Supervisors unanimously approved the new rule after a public hearing yielded no input for or against it. The ordinance also requires patrons to be off nightclub property by 1:30 a.m.
The ordinance defines nightclubs as "lounges, taverns, bars, dance halls, pool halls, community centers, recreation centers, convention centers, multi-purpose centers" serving alcohol and providing activities including live music and dancing. It also includes restaurants or bars that provide such entertainment during any portion of its regular operation.
The new code states that some county establishments contribute to littering, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct and are located in older buildings not in compliance with current code requirements. It also prohibits owners from allowing entertainment promoters without first verifying possession of an entertainment promoter permit and ensuring compliance with security staffing requirements. Owners must enforce a no-weapons rule and refrain from exceeding building occupant capacity.
Arledge first appealed to supervisors in April referencing frequent late-night disturbance calls to nightclubs, including a 2012 shooting at one in Crawford. He said the incident resulted in five injuries and deputies were overwhelmingly outnumbered and unable to properly restore order.
Supervisor Leroy Brooks said he and Arledge recently spoke with Artesia residents about the possibility of a new law.
"Those guys with a couple of nightclubs down there are saying it didn't happen in their club, but the sheriff and I both took a pretty hard and conservative approach about enforcing this because I don't see anything that seems to reflect disparagingly on the town of Artesia because there's a lot of good folks down there, but you've got folks coming from every imaginable place and sometimes on Saturday and Sunday, you're talking about 1,000 folks in the heart of downtown," Brooks said. "The club owners, they (weren't) objecting to anything. There's been some problems around the county that has really put some law enforcement folks in jeopardy. When you tell them to move, they just look at you like, 'Who are you?'"
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.