Branyan: ‘It’s looking like Bourbon Street’ outside controversial lounge

Published 12:33 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Richard Branyan’s business and home are located in the 700 block of Franklin Street. In addition to his Lower Lodge Antiques, Branyan lives upstairs and operates three bed and breakfast locations in that block.

Richard Branyan

Since the Truth Lounge opened across the street in April, Branyan said he has had unhappy guests and negative reviews on his B&B locations.

“(Lounge owners) Rickey (Banks) and David (Haywood) are very nice to us. But I do not understand what is happening outside the Truth Lounge since it has opened,” Branyan said. “It’s like people are tailgating out there. They are partying all around. I had one guest tell me it looked like someone had set up a DJ in the parking lot.”

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He said the people who have parked in lots designated for his building and elsewhere near have lacked respect for private and public property.

“They pee on my building. They are defecating in the parking lot. It is insane,” Branyan said.

After an early Saturday morning melee in the streets and a fight inside Truth Lounge, 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 Monday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m.

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.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said city officials had been working with the owners of the Truth Lounge, and even took steps to deputize Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and his deputies to help with the issue, but city law enforcement said problems have persisted.

Banks and Haywood said they have upheld their part of what was asked of them by the city and law enforcement: Take care of their business and the sidewalk in front and the city and police officers would handle anything in the parking lots nearby.

Banks and Haywood said Saturday’s early morning brawl in their business was the first of its kind, nothing more than happens in other similar businesses in Natchez, but their business was shut down. They are being treated differently than others, they said.

Branyan said he isn’t sure if it is the clientele at the Truth Lounge creating the problem or the people who are coming to party outside the lounge. He said for some reason, the lounge is attracting a large, unsavory group hanging around outside of the lounge.

“Ricky says they are not his customers. What I know is they are not there when the Truth Lounge is not open. That’s the problem,” Branyan said. “The Truth Lounge is allegedly not exceeding the occupancy limit of 75. So it’s the other people who are coming to hang out outside it. I don’t understand why you get this tailgating thing for blocks around a place that has a limit of 75 people.”

Branyan said his bed and breakfast operation is a significant part of his income, and the negative experience and reviews from his guests are hurting his business.

He and others have lived across the street from a bar for many years, Bobby J’s, with no issues.

“Bobby J is an excellent neighbor. There are weekends when he has a big crowd, but his crowd is respectful of the neighborhood,” Branyan said. 

So many more people are living in the downtown area in recent years. Branyan said he had hoped there would be more businesses like a lounge and restaurant open up for entertainment for new residents.

“We need a balance,” he said. “It’s been looking like Bourbon Street down here, and honestly, if the crowd were respectful, it would be a different situation.”