April 8, 2014 10:40:00 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
A proposed Oktibbeha County nightclub ordinance would force nightclubs to close their doors at 1 a.m., remove patrons from the premises 30 minutes later and require owners to provide at least one bonded security guard per 100 patrons inside and outside the facility.
Oktibbeha County supervisors are reviewing the potential nuisance ordinance after receiving its first draft Monday. Sheriff Steve Gladney's office worked with County Attorney Jackson Brown to help tailor the pending piece of legislation, which was modeled after a similar ordinance passed last year by Lowndes County.
Club owners who violate the misdemeanor provisions could face a maximum $900 fine, not more than 90 days in jail or both penalties in Oktibbeha County Justice Court.
Owners would also be forced to secure an annual operating permit each year with the sheriff's department for $50. Continued violations involving littering, loitering, vandalism, noise complaints, fighting, assaults, inaccessible roads and other nuisances could lead to permit revocation.
OCSD commanders may also temporarily suspend permits to restore order when ongoing violations endanger the life, welfare and safety of patrons and residents near the establishment.
Some confusion was present among supervisors after Brown said the law would only affect businesses established after its passage. The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after board approval. It is not known if supervisors will take up the matter again at their next meeting later this month.
The proposal comes after five people were shot March 29 at Club Rock's parking lot. Physical evidence was discovered at the crime scene which points to shots fired from three different locations. Investigators believe at least 20 shots were fired that night.
Eighteen-year-old Zacharias Blanchard, the last remaining victim hospitalized from the incident, was listed in stable condition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's critical care unit.
Blanchard was shot in the head, investigators said.
Although overflow crowds at Club Rock were estimated by witnesses near the 1,000-person mark, deputies say witnesses have not been forthcoming with information. The club itself, officials said Monday, has a maximum capacity of 189 people. Comparatively, the Oktibbeha County Chancery Courtroom adjacent to the board of supervisors meeting room has 126-person capacity.
No new updates into the case were available Monday.
Gladney said District Attorney Forrest Allgood's office is expected to file nuisance charges against the club owner with Oktibbeha County Chancery Court. If those charges do not come to fruition, Brown said the county could file similar charges on public safety grounds.
The sheriff also confirmed he spoke with Club Rock's owner since the incident. The owner rents out the building for events. The business cannot legally sell alcohol due to county laws, but patrons are allowed to brown bag liquor.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard called the club a continued nuisance and said Monday he was willing to do what was necessary to close the establishment.
"Hands down, Club Rock has the worst track record over a period of time than any other establishment in that district," he said.
Club Rock is located in District 2, which is represented by Board President Orlando Trainer.
Continued Club Rock emergency calls also impact the safety of all Oktibbeha County residents, Gladney said. For example, about five deputies patrol the outlying county area at any given time. If three are called to the nightclub for a major incident, two are left to patrol the entire countryside.
"I'm concerned about the people that live around Club Rock. It's a miracle nobody else was hurt," he said of the number of shots fired March 29. "It's my job and obligation to protect the citizens in that community, and they're concerned about a lot of things."
Anyone with information on the March 29 incident is asked to call Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department at (662) 323-2421 or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at (800) 530-7151. Anonymous tips can be submitted to OCSD via http://sheriff.oktibbeha.ms.us/contactus.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch