City: Bars will close at 2 a.m.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NATCHEZ — Natchez Board of Aldermen agreed Tuesday that not much good can happen at the local bar scene after 2 a.m.

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields made a motion at the regular board meeting to direct City Planner Bob Nix to draft an ordinance forcing bars to close their doors at 2 a.m.

Fields said addressing the closing time is something the aldermen should have looked into before, but a recent violent act compelled him to take action in the form of the motion.

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“A young man was (recently) shot four times inside a night club,” Fields said. “It’s getting out of hand.”

Fields said the instances of early morning disturbances at downtown bars also indicate the bar scene needs restriction.

Fields recommended the ordinance call for bars to stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m. and for patrons to be cleared out of premises by 2:30 a.m.

Fields also suggested writing into the ordinance security requirements for bars.

It would be up to the establishment’s security staff to clear the lots, Fields said.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Ricky” Gray said the board should consider taking action against establishments that continue to have major problems.

“If (a major disturbance) happens they will get a warning and if it happens again, we will pull the license,” Gray said. “It’s to the point where peoples’ lives are in danger.”

Mayor Jake Middleton said restricting bar hours will not affect the city’s resort status.

Middleton said the bar restrictions should not inadvertently affect tourism, either.

“Most of the problems in establishments are not from tourists; it’s from locals,” Middleton said. “It’s not usually tourists that are out at 3:30 or 4 a.m.”

Fields said he recommends the ordinance exempt the Isle of Capri Casino from the restricted hours.

Ward 4 Alderman Mark Fortenbery said the adage that nothing good goes on late at night applies to the bar scene.

“If there’s anything good going on at 2:30 a.m., come get us because we want to be a part of it,” Mark Fortenbery said.

Ward 1 Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Bob Pollard were not present at the point in the meeting when the vote was taken to draft a bar hours ordinance.

In other new from Tuesday’s meeting:

4 City Engineer David Gardner discussed challenges with Phase 2A of the North Natchez Drainage Project that is currently under construction.

He said the project has been difficult for all involved mostly because it is hard to predict what existing structures are beneath the ground in the old section of town due to a lack of records.

“There is four or five generations of (infrastructure) that there’s no record of, so we have run into a lot of (issues) we had to address,” Gardner said.

Gardner asked for approval for approximately $100,000 in change orders for the project because of unforeseen costs, such as running into underground storm drain systems. Since the bid the city took was $1 million under the project’s budget, the change orders should not cost the city extra money, Gardner said.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the extra costs could affect the cost of the next phase of the project, but the city might receive grant funding for the next phase.

Gardner said there are only 100 yards left to compete on the project, and everyone involved is prioritizing the project to complete it as smoothly as possible.

Issues on the North Natchez Drainage project will be addressed more specifically in a special meeting at 4 p.m. on March 21, Middleton said.

4 Dillard voted to table a decision whether to accept a special exception ordinance for a mobile home belonging to owner of the Northgate Shopping Center.

Former Adams County Supervisor Sammy Cauthen addressed the board on behalf of the owner, saying the trailer would be used for security for the shopping center, including 24-hour a fitness facility.

Cauthen said refusing to grant the exception would unsupportive of business.

Fortenbery said he wanted to be fair to all citizens and was worried allowing one person an exception would open the arena for more exemption requests.

City Planner Bob Nix said the exception included 11 standards that would have to be met in order for the owner to get the exemption.

The mobile home exemption will also be discussed at the March 21 meeting.