Local nightclub is not good for community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mama was right. If you hang around with the wrong people, you’ll get into trouble.

As I grew older, that simple, but true statement grew into an understanding of the more adult phrase, guilty by association.

It’s a simple concept.

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But it’s not just a lesson of life intended to keep children headed down the straight, narrow path.

The people with whom we associate speak volumes about us, even when we don’t intend or even welcome the message.

Those associates can be friends, family, coworkers, even customers.

And it’s the “customer association” that had me thinking recently about the problems that have occurred in the last year at one particular nightclub.

Bars and nightclubs are all over Natchez and the Miss-Lou. And while the occasional fight will break out from time to time — that tends to happen when you mix alcohol and testosterone together — for the most part the trouble seems relatively minor.

Minor, that is, with one huge, glaring exception — the In the Mix bar near the corner of Homochitto Street and John R. Junkin Drive.

Normally, individual businesses are off limits for me in this space — a self-determined rule. But with In the Mix, I’m making an exception for sake of safety and lives.

The club is a place that has, in the last year, been associated with at least five violent deaths, two on the premises and three more in a tragic accident that began with a violent beating at the club.

In August 2006, two men met a violent end outside the club. They were shot in the head at close range.

Earlier this month a fight outside the bar ultimately led to a group of four people fleeing the scene.

Their truck was clocked at a high-rate of speed by a police officer shortly before the truck plunged into a ravine killing three of the four inside.

The lone survivor now faces criminal charges as a result. His life will never be the same; neither will the lives of his family.

And certainly all of the people who were related to the three who died will never be the same; their lives scarred for eternity with only memories and perhaps hope that their loss was for some greater purpose.

Critics will say that you can’t blame a bar for the crime any more than you can blame the handgun manufacturer for a shooting.

But in this case, it’s not a matter of a wholesale, blanket blame as in the case of lawsuits aimed at handgun manufacturers. Not all bars and nightclubs seem to have as much blood on their hands as this one.

This is one specific club, one specific model of handgun, if you will, that seems unsafe.

Now before you start thinking I’m being prudish or that I have some axe to grind with the club or the man who runs it, I don’t.

Curtis Coble, the proprietor of In the Mix, and I met many years ago when I interviewed and photographed him after he opened the county’s first (at least to my knowledge) adult entertainment club, also known as a strip club. The club was on U.S. 61 North,

The club shocked people and drew fire from many angles. It was, critics said, an abomination of all that is good and moral in the community.

At the time, I felt a little sympathy for Coble. He was just a guy trying to make a living. While certainly not a family establishment or a place I’d like to hang out at in my free time, the club seemed relatively harmless. At the time I thought Coble was getting railroaded a bit.

It wasn’t long before that club closed down.

At some point between now and then, the In the Mix opened up and bad news has seemed to follow.

Maybe, just maybe, the club is, as my momma would say, attracting the wrong kind of people and our community would be better if it went away.

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