What’s next for the Truth Lounge? City officials are uncertain

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

NATCHEZ — City Attorney Bryan Callaway said at the last meeting of the city’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen in November that the city’s planning commission would review on Dec. 14 the special exception it granted Truth Lounge to operate.

However, city planner Frankie Legaux said on Monday the city’s planning commission would not meet in the month of December.

“They did not get the information to me in time to get it published,” Legaux said.

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She said such a discussion requires a notice be published in local newspapers at least 14 days prior to the meeting.

She said she is uncertain if the issue will come up at a meeting of the planning commission in January 2024 or in the future.

“That’s a good question. Since the judge’s order was lifted, I just don’t know,” she said.

Truth Lounge and its owners have been under scrutiny from the city and county law enforcement and city officials for several months.

At a special meeting in October, the mayor and three aldermen voted to close the lounge after a fight inside the lounge took law officers 20 minutes to quell.

Sixth Circuit District Judge Debra Blackwell then signed off on an agreement between the city and Truth Lounge attorneys that paved the way for it to reopen, but with restricted hours.

Since that time, the city and Truth Lounge attorneys came to an agreement that allowed it to reopen with no restrictions, as long as it agreed to provide security in its building and to keep the sidewalk clear in front of the building at 719 Franklin St. As a result, Truth Lounge owners dropped a lawsuit it had filed against the city.

However, a lawsuit filed by Truth Lounge against Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and 15 as-yet-unnamed defendants is still active, the lounge’s attorneys said.

Nightclub neighbor Richard Branyan has said the excessive noise generated by the club has cost him thousands of dollars in lost revenue at his short-term rentals.

Callaway since has resigned his job as city attorney and will go to work on Jan. 1, 2024, with Circuit Court Judge Blackwell.

Planning Commission Chairman Cheryl Rinehart also said she doesn’t now if the planning commission will discuss its special exception for the lounge.

“If it does come back up on the agenda, we will properly advertise it. But at this point, I don’t know of any plans for it to come back up,” she said.

In the meantime, neighbors like Branyan are in a wait-and-see mode.

“The first night it re-opened, which I think was Thanksgiving, they were very loud. People were having a good time. I had a full B&B and lots of people called me complaining,” he said. “I was on the coast for Thanksgiving, and had numerous calls. I told them to call 9-1-1.”

On a recent Sunday morning at about 1:30 a.m., there was an assault somewhere near the Truth Lounge and someone got arrested, Branyan said.

“I know that because the police were here downloading footage from my security cameras,” he said.

He said another incident occurred on the weekend of the preview of the Rumble in the Dark movie, which was held at the former Elks Club.

“We came back that night and they were hopping. This was while they still had to close at 1 a.m. We couldn’t get into our own parking lot,” he said. “Since that time, it has been noticeably better. Last weekend, it was almost like it was non-existent. I’m not sure they were even open. We were enjoying the peace last weekend, but we don’t know why we had that peace.”

Rickey Banks, co-owner of Truth Lounge with Natchezian David Haywood, said the days of operation at the nightclub vary, and that they are very much still in operation.

“We have not had any issues,” Banks said.

Natchez City Police Commander Jerry Ford said he is unaware of any further issues at Truth Lounge.