Planning commission gives OK for new nightclub downtown

Published 1:54 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez planning commission approved a variance to setback requirements for a new building planned for the Natchez Mall and gave the OK for a new nightclub on Franklin Street.

The commission met Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

By unanimous vote, it gave the OK for a special exception for a bar/nightclub to Rickey Banks and David Haywood at 719-1/2 Franklin St.

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If approved, Natchez City Planner Frankie Legaux told planning commissioners the new nightclub still must obtain a privilege license and its ABC liquor license before opening. The city’s building inspector will also inspect the building, and the city’s fire marshal will inspect and set the occupancy limits for the 1,080-square-foot building.

Banks is a 20-year resident of Natchez and operates a cross-country trucking company and a janitorial service in multiple states.

David Haywood is a lifelong Natchez resident and has similar business experience. He is also the Natchez High School men’s basketball coach.

“We found a nice piece of property downtown and hope to provide entertainment, particularly for tourists in town,” Banks said. “We plan to have security regularly and keep the area clean and up to par.”

He said the venue would open at 5 p.m. and feature live music.

“We will not serve food. It will be serving drinks only. If we have an event we may cater in food, but we will not sell food,” Banks said.

Emma Rose Jackson, a planning commissioner, spoke on behalf of Banks and Haywood.

“I have known these gentlemen and their families their entire lives. I know the kind of families they both come from. I’m quite sure they will operate a nice establishment because they will not want to let Ms. Jackson down,” she said. “There have always been nightclubs in that block of Franklin Street and I am sure they will operate much like Bobby J’s. I’m sure there will be no teenagers served.”

Haywood assured the commissioners that the nightclub would operate under strict codes, serve no one underage, and would have no spillover of partying outside the lounge.

He said the nightclub would employ multiple security officers who would be present whenever it is open for business.

The property is within the city’s historic district. Legaux said the two have already received approval from the preservation commission, including approval of the paint color of the outside of the building.

“It was even changed from what (Banks and Haywood) wanted, and they painted exactly the color the preservation commission asked for,” she said.

Doug Charboneau, who owns a home on Rankin Street, which backs up to the row of building on Franklin Street, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. He said he has no objection to the nightclub but would not want it to have events in the small backyard area behind the building.

“What we are concerned about is a backyard and a backdoor. We prefer it not to be used for outdoor music and seating. We use a screened porch on the back of our house and would rather not back up to that, given the late hours of operation,” Charboneau said.

Banks and Haywood said it would not be practical to use the backyard area for outdoor seating or events and said the back door would be used only as an emergency fire exit.

The special exception was granted by unanimous vote.

In other business, the commissioners:

• approved a variance to setback requirements for a new building at 350 John R. Junkin, which is the Natchez Mall property.

Tyler Parr, who said he is from the west Texas area, said he represented a company that plans to build a building to house a national cell phone provider. He would not be more specific about the company that will locate in the building.

• approved an application from Evan Smith for AZT Corp., 350 John R. Junkin — the Natchez Mall property — to re-subdivide five lots near the back of the property.

• approved a request from Lisa Pulitzer of New Orleans, who owns the property at 807 Washington St., to use the home as a guest house, meaning a vacation or short-term rental property.