Conflict brewing over brunch at Haney’s Big House in Ferriday

Published 8:21 am Friday, May 19, 2023

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FERRIDAY, La. — Ferriday Police Chief Sam King issued a clear, simple message to newspapers and posted it on the police department’s social media page: “There will be NO brunch Sunday, May 21, 2023, at Haney’s Big House.”

However, to the host of the event “Baddies Do Brunch” which has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, the message is as clear as mud.

For the past year, Rashonda Brown, a Vidalia resident, has held a monthly brunch at Haney’s that advertises breakfast plates and bottomless mimosas for $30 per person.

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Brown signed a rental agreement dated April 4 and paid a $300 rental fee plus a $50 refundable deposit to use the venue Sunday.

King said he posted the update that there would be no brunch Sunday, “with the understanding that (Brown) had been contacted and that a refund was made available to her,” which Brown said is not the case.

“A post from Ferriday P.D. is not enough to break a (contract),” Brown posted on social media Wednesday. “I will (still be) going to HANEYS Sunday morning. If they don’t let me in at that point, the contract is (breached). Y’all will be notified. There will be NO refunds issued.”

A Ferriday business owner’s recent letter to the Board of Aldermen and to the Mayor complained about “outrageous and obscene behavior” at a social gathering that took place Sunday, April 23, at Haney’s, which was when Brown last hosted a brunch there.

King said there had been a number of automobile accidents that same Sunday in Concordia Parish, though none within the town limits of Ferriday, that likely involved intoxicated driving and people who had left the brunch.

There was also a video that circulated on social media of a woman publicly relieving herself by a tree outside Ferriday Hall, directly across the street from Haney’s, King said.

“There are some things happening that shouldn’t take place,” King said at the time.

During a May 9 board meeting, Alderwoman Gloria Lloyd said it’s prohibited for Haney’s to be used for any private function where the host would make a profit.

Lloyd read out a portion of a 2015 rental agreement for “Haney’s Music Hall,” another name for Haney’s Big House.

“This is something we voted on in 2015,” Lloyd said. “Use of the facility for a profit function is strictly prohibited. No money shall be collected at the door for attendance at any function. Any breach of this contract is subject to forfeiture of the center and any fees collected.”

This rental agreement differs from one that Brown signed, which says nothing about charging at the door and adds “consumption of alcoholic beverages in the facility and area will be ALLOWED for those person over 21.”

Ferriday Tax Clerk Debra Elaine-Jones said she found the contract from 2015 when she was overseeing the rental agreements herself. She said the rules should still be the same today. However, after administrative changes, Jones said the new venue manager had used a “vague” version of the rental agreement and the rule about not hosting events for a profit wasn’t being followed. Grant funds awarded by the USDA for Haney’s prohibits the facility from being used for a profit, Jones added.

In light of the conflict, Brown said she has booked an alternate location for the brunch at 49 East Franklin St. in Natchez. “Expenses for both venues have been paid,” she added.

A letter from an attorney representing Brown threatens a lawsuit against the Town of Ferriday if it suspends the contract with Brown, stating it would be discriminatory to do so.

In her letter, Attorney Marlin J. Jenkins stated, “… We must address the racially insensitive, racially-biased, and bigoted, April 27, 2023, letter addressed to this honorable body. … Ms. Brown’s events are being unfairly targeted.”

Jenkins’s letter later states, “We hope this situation can be resolved amicably for all parties involved. We anticipate reasonable accommodations can be made. However, a repudiation of existing contractual agreements, coupled with discriminatory state action, may leave no options but to seek redress in Federal courts.”