Vidalia meeting dominated by Danny’s Lounge debate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

VIDALIA — Owners and supporters of Danny’s Lounge don’t think they are getting a fair shake, but 37 police complaints and several guns and knives removed from the property speak for themselves, city officials said.

A standing room only crowd of Danny’s supporters filled Vidalia Town Hall for Tuesday night’s heated board of aldermen meeting. Representatives from Danny’s were asking that their liquor license be renewed.

The license renewal was denied in December.

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“Everybody basically casts a negative outlook on our business,” owner Sandra White said. “All I want is for us to be treated fairly.”

White, who lives in Texas, and her family came to the meeting with an attorney from Alexandria, La., saying they would pursue legal action if the license was not renewed.

Police say they have responded to shootings, stabbings and multiple fights on Danny’s property for years.

Several months ago the city asked Danny’s to begin closing at 2 a.m. to curtail some of the criminal activity, but the club did not comply.

White said she was waiting for a planned meeting with the mayor and city officials. The meeting never happened.

White argued Tuesday that it was unfair for the city to expect her business to control the actions of people.

“When people get drunk they do crazy things,” White’s attorney Ed Larvadain said.

And Danny’s Lounge has increased security and tightened its rules, White said.

But the criminal incidents continued, city attorney Jack McLemore said, waving a folder containing 37 police reports spanning three years.

“If you get this many complaints from the police department, you are gone,” McLemore said. “We have a responsibility to protect citizens.”

Police Chief Ronnie G. “Tapper” Hendricks showed the crowd several Ziploc bags containing guns and other weapons he said police had confiscated from Danny’s property.

The crowd, which had to be quieted by police officers at one point, was vocal throughout the meeting. Those present accused the police department of attributing crimes to Danny’s that did not happen at the lounge, and said police did not patrol the area around the bar enough.

But city officials maintained that Danny’s has been treated like any other local business would be treated.

“We don’t have any other business that has ever received one-fifth of the complaints that have been generated at Danny’s Lounge,” McLemore said.

White argued that the city has avoided meetings with her and is focused only on shutting her business down.

But Mayor Hyram Copeland and the aldermen all said they were pro-business and never favored closing a tax-paying establishment.

“I’m the alderman in that district,” Triand “Tron” McCoy said. “Personally, I hate the thought of not having one of the three businesses in my district. Ultimately my concern has to be for the safety of the people.”

Several aldermen said they believed the license denial should stand and Danny’s should use the next six months to find a solution to the bar’s crime problems.

Ultimately, Copeland asked McLemore to set up a meeting between the two of them, White, McCoy and Alderman Vernon Stevens.

After the meeting, the issue could come before the board again, Copeland said.