Earlier closing time, other issues brought up at Dimples meeting
Published 12:14 am Friday, March 14, 2014
Editor’s Note: A photo originally published with this story contained incorrect caption information. The photo and caption have been corrected. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.
NATCHEZ — A promise to clean up and a proposal to shut down earlier in the night were two solutions discussed at a public meeting Thursday to remedy problems arising from the late-night operation of Dimples Lounge on Main Street.
Mayor Butch Brown called the meeting following an alleged shooting on Main Street early Saturday morning after 200 Dimples Lounge patrons flooded the street when the club was shut down.
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Dimples was shut down again at approximately 3:30 a.m. Sunday after police were reportedly called into the bar to quell a disturbance. Dimples’ owner and management contend no punches were thrown during an argument, but the club was still shut down.
Dimples owner Deidre Cox made allegations Wednesday that Dimples was being targeted by the Natchez Police Department and the City of Natchez because black patrons made up the majority of the club’s clientele.
Cox made no mention of racism at Thursday’s meeting, but did recount an argument she had with a police officer after one of the disturbances last weekend during which Cox said she was talked to “like a piece of trash.”
Mayor Butch Brown called the accusation of racism an “erroneous assumption” and something said “in haste without a lot of thought” during Thursday’s meeting.
William Fred Marsalis, who took over management of Dimples Monday, said he has received calls from patrons who believe they were treated unfairly by police because they are black.
“In my professional opinion … this is not a racial issue,” he said. “This is a community issue, and it’s a club issue, and it has to be addressed immediately.”
Marsalis told a crowd of approximately 30 people made up of city officials, business owners, residents, law enforcement officials, the municipal judge, city prosecutors and Alcohol Beverage Control officials that he plans to clean up Dimples.
“A lot of things have to change,” he said.
A dress code will be immediately enforced at Dimples “to create another culture of people that will come” to the club, Marsalis said.
Patrons will also no longer be able to smoke inside the bar, Marsalis said.
The club also plans to take a “zero-tolerance” approach to loitering, Marsalis said.
Eola Hotel manager Ron Brumfield said the Eola has experienced noise problems with Dimples and Andrew’s Tavern for several years.
Brumfield, who also addressed the Natchez Board of Aldermen at its meeting Thursday morning, furnished the city with complaints he has received from Eola guests dating back to 2008.
Brown also presented documentation of approximately 700 calls to the police department about Dimples since 2006.
Cox said she has called the police many times to walk through the bar when she felt there was a problem and suggested she probably accounts for a lot of those calls.
Brumfield said his problem is not with what goes on inside Andrew’s or Dimples.
“But when they have trouble, they throw them out in the street, and they get to fighting … and they carry on like a bunch of animals,” he said.
The rowdiness in the streets has gotten so bad, Brumfield said, that the Eola tries not to rent rooms on the side of the hotel that faces the bars. Those rooms, Brumfield said, are on the prime side of the hotel and usually where many guests want to stay.
The Eola has also been forced to refund some guests’ money, Brumfield said, because of their great dissatisfaction in their experience because of disturbances near Andrew’s and Dimples.
Brumfield said bar patrons also use the Eola’s parking lot, a problem he said could be solved by towing their cars on the weekends.
Brumfield said he believes the answer is to close the bars at 2 a.m. Most of the problems his guests report occur between 3-5 a.m.