° empty

Few good things happen after 2 a.m.

Downtown Natchez continues to go through a tug-of-war of sorts between the establishments and residents that close and go to bed early and the ones who don’t.

The “don’ts” in this case are a small handful of bars that stay open into the wee hours of the morning.

The struggle is nothing new. The ugly side of all-night bars rears its head at least every couple of years.

Usually a fight or some kind of disturbance is what brings it to light.

Over the past several years, a number of such incidents have erupted at downtown bars and spilled into the streets.

Earlier this month, allegedly, a shot rang out on Main Street after a disturbance occurred outside Dimples bar, though police never found a weapon.

Last year, a man was stabbed on Main Street outside the same bar.

In 2010, a local man was arrested after striking a police officer at the same establishment.

The year prior, officers responded to a fight at the bar and wound up getting into a fight with two brothers. What ensued is still debated. Two officers were initially arrested and charged with assaulting the brothers and stealing a credit card from one of them.

The case went to federal court, where one of the two officers was acquitted and the other sent to federal prison.

Aside from the obvious problems that come when knives, fists and bullets fly on Main Street, perhaps the most troubling thing is that the problem never seems to get resolved.

Each time the issue bubbles up and boils over, the bar owners say they’re sorry, promise to do better and the city seems to take them at their word.

Despite almost all of the folks involved on each side of the tug-of-war rope suggesting that the worst problems occur in the wee hours of the morning when patrons are more likely to be inebriated, the establishments still stay open past 2 a.m.

The challenge is bar owners let their own greed get in the way of common sense.

Common sense and life experiences illustrate to most adults that positive things rarely occur between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. at a bar. Most of the time — unless you’re working on the night shift — milling around after 2 a.m. ends in trouble for someone.

Clearly that’s been the case for any number of people seriously injured in the streets of downtown Natchez.

The cycle needs to end soon, before not only more people get hurt who are a party to the partying, but innocent bystanders, too.

How awful is it going to be when someone sleeping in a downtown hotel room gets shot through a window?

A couple of years ago the City of Natchez vowed to fix the problem and close down bars at 2 a.m., but then dropped the matter when city leaders discovered the resort status of the city meant the state, not the city determined hours.

Recently it was suggested that while the city doesn’t have the authority to set the hours directly, the city could make a request for an hour change to the state.

Hopefully, that request gets made soon and doesn’t slip into the “we meant to do that” column again.

A 2 a.m. close time should be a good compromise to balance the needs of the bar owners and the needs of the downtown’s other patrons.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.