Frazier claims mayor has issue with Truth Lounge; mayor says it’s a matter of public safety

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

NATCHEZ — Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier said Mayor Dan Gibson overstepped his bounds on Saturday when he called a special meeting during which the three aldermen who attended and the mayor voted to close The Truth Lounge.

“From my understanding, the mayor was riding around videoing (the fight early Saturday morning),” Frazier said, who frequently disagrees with Gibson. “He has had a problem with these people from the start.”

After an early Saturday morning melee in the streets and a fight inside Truth Lounge that lasted almost 20 minutes after police officers and sheriff’s deputies entered to try to keep the peace, the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen met in a special-called meeting on Saturday afternoon and voted to close the establishment until at least its next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23.

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Neither Frazier; Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving; or Ward 5 Alderman Ben Davis attended the meeting.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall, Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith and Ward 6 Alderman Curtis Moroney along with Gibson were at the meeting, which constituted a quorum.

On Aug. 29, the city’s board of aldermen in a split vote moved to enact its chronic nuisance ordinance on owners of the Truth Lounge seeking to get its cooperation to establish decorum at that location.

After the city’s August meeting with the owners of the Truth Lounge, Gibson declared all was well and a plan to keep the peace in the area was in place during a press conference in which he deputized deputies of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Travis Patten to allow them to aid the city’s police department and enforce city ordinances.

However, after Saturday’s early morning incident that overwhelmed law enforcement, city officials said the lounge posed a threat to the safety of citizens and visitors.

“You got to be careful what you are doing. If you do for one, do for all. What about the fight at Andrews? What about the fights at clubs all over town? Why aren’t they closed down,” Frazier said, referring to a fight outside another downtown bar earlier this year. “I think the mayor has a vendetta going, and I think he is a vindictive person. I think he’s doing a lot of things to show people he’s on this law and order campaign.”

Frazier, a former Natchez police officer, said he does not think the incident on Saturday warranted an “emergency meeting. This could have waited for the board meeting on Monday. He (the mayor) started in on these people when they first opened up.

“I’m strictly for law enforcement. When I was an officer, I broke up fights in clubs all over town. I was involved in a lawsuit from breaking up a fight in Dimples. They had fights in there all the time. But we didn’t shut down Dimples,” Frazier said.

Dimples was a popular nightclub that was located on Main Street for many years. The club was closed down for a day in March 2014 after a shooting took place on the street in front of the club, and the then-Mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown and aldermen led public discussions about safety and potential ordinance changes.

“The police department is overwhelmed, that they issue. They are overwhelmed and under paid. The former police chief left that department in shambles,” Frazier said.

Gibson, in a statement released on Monday afternoon, said the issue involves public safety and nothing more.

“What happened at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning — the fighting, the blocking of a city street, the excessive noise, not to mention law enforcement officers being overwhelmed in spite of their numbers, I would not wish on my worst enemy,” Gibson said.

“No one can say that we did not want this business to succeed. They were given unanimous approval by the city’s Planning Commission and opened without a single objection from neighboring residents and businesses in the area.

“Sadly, in spite of our efforts over a two month time period to work through various challenges with the business owners, mounting problems and serious incidents continued to occur and could no longer be ignored.

“The evidence the Natchez Police presented from early Saturday morning’s incidents was indisputable and was far more than what has taken place at other establishments. Our Police Chief and her command staff unanimously recommended closing the club. The Sheriff of Adams County concurred, even issuing notice that going forward his deputies would no longer be allowed to provide private security for the club. When it comes to public safety, we as a city are duty bound to follow the advice of law enforcement. They know far better the proper steps to take,” Gibson said. “It’s not always easy doing the right thing, especially when one would rather do the popular thing. But public safety must always come first.”