Planning commission to revisit Truth Lounge special exception at meeting tonight

Published 12:39 pm Thursday, February 15, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez Planning Commission will re-visit the special exception it granted to Rickey Banks and David Haywood to operate Truth Lounge at 719-1/2 Franklin St. at a meeting at 5:15 p.m. today.

The meeting is at 115 S. Pearl St. in the Council Chambers located across the street from City Hall.

The reconsideration comes after several months of postponements for a variety of reasons, including inclement weather in January.

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The entry on the planning commission’s agenda reads that it will review and reconsider the application to determine if the development has revised, enlarged, or modified the terms and conditions of the approved Special Exception for a bar/nightclub.

The planning commission approved the special exception on March 16, 2023. At the time, Haywood assured the planning commission the nightclub would operate under strict codes, serve no one underage and would have no spillover of partying outside the lounge.

Since that time, city officials have received numerous complaints from law enforcement officers and from businesses and private residents located near the nightclub about excessively loud music that continues into the wee hours of the morning and groups of rowdy, disrespectful people congregating in parking lots near the lounge.

The issue came to a head on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, after a fight inside the bar took law enforcement 20 minutes to contain after they arrived. In addition, Natchez Police Chief Cal Green and Commander Jerry Ford described complete chaos in the streets that threatened to overwhelm officers among customers who had gathered outside the lounge.

In a special meeting on Oct. 14, the mayor and board of aldermen voted to close the lounge at least temporarily.

Several days later, Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Deborah Blackwell signed an agreement between the city and the owners of Truth Lounge, through their attorneys The Cochran Firm of Jackson, which allowed the business to re-open, but limited its hours of operation. The lounge could not permit new customer to enter after 1 a.m. and had to close soon after patrons finished their drinks. Further, the order called for Truth Lounge security to be responsible for ensuring the roadway and sidewalk immediately in front of the building was clear at all times the nightclub is open.

Banks and Haywood filed suit against the mayor and aldermen, seeking a temporary restraining order. That suit was soon after dropped, but the two have filed a suit individually against Mayor Dan Gibson and 15 yet-to-be-named defendants, which remains active.