Aldermen set Truth Lounge appeal for June 18 meeting

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Thanks to the prodding of Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier, the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen set a date of June 18 at 6 p.m. to hear the appeal of the city’s Planning Commission ruling that closed Truth Lounge.

On April 26, the Planning Commission voted 4 to 3 to revoke the special exception permit that allowed the lounge to operate at 719 Franklin St. in downtown Natchez. Chairperson Cheryl Rinehart broke the tie, revoking the permit.

The Planning Commission issued a special exception permit on March 16, 2023, allowing the lounge to operate.

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However, Truth Lounge has been the center of controversy since opening with reports of loitering, fights inside the lounge, gunshots fired outside by people who some think were lounge customers, excessive noise claims by neighbors into the wee hours of the morning, and accusations by neighbors of patrons’ poor behavior and destruction of private property when hanging out outside the club.

The Truth Lounge has filed an appeal to the Planning Commission’s meeting before the city’s Board of Aldermen.

At the aldermen’s meeting Tuesday night, Frazier asked why no date had been set for the aldermen to hear the appeal. He said the owners of the Truth Lounge — Rickey Banks and David Haywood — had 10 days to file an appeal, and that they had done that.

“I am trying to find out some information about what is going on with the Truth Lounge. Ms. Legaux (city planner), I know they have appealed, but nothing has come to the board. I don’t know what’s going on. These people are running a business. They are bringing money in and spending money. We need to show them some kind of respect,” Frazier said. “My constituents are calling me and they want to know what’s going on and I want to know what’s going on. It’s been a month and I haven’t hear anything and nothing has come to the board. Can someone fill me in on what’s going on with the Truth Lounge appeal?” Frazier asked. “Ms. Legaux, maybe you can tell me why hasn’t the appeal been addressed. We are not trying to run anybody out of business. We are here to serve and serve the people what they want.”

City Attorney Jack Lazarus responded to Frazier’s question.

“Notice of appeal has been received from the planning commission’s decision,” Lazarus said. “We have discussed it with Ms. Legaux and we are of the opinion that the appeal is entitled to the same notice and public hearing the planning commission hearing was below. In addition, that requires a 15-day notice and we’re in the process of making the 15-day notice, scheduling the appeal before th entire board so they can be heard. The public also has the right to be heard, which is why we have to issue the public notice.

Frazier questioned the need for another public hearing.

“They had a public hearing before the planning commission. You mean to tell me now they have to come back and have another public hearing? I’m just asking. I’m just a little ol’ dumb alderman, a little ol’ dumb country boy,” Frazier said.

“My understanding is the appeal must have the same notice as the hearing below. The hearing below was a public hearing, was noticed out and the appeal must be a public hearing, noticed out. goes to the entire board, the mayor and the public. The public will be invited to come and express their opinion of in favor or against the special exception. It’s in the process,” Lazarus said.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving pressed Lazarus for a date when the Truth Lounge appeal could be heard by the board.

The board’s next meeting is June 11, which does not allow the necessary time for the 15-days prior necessary for the publication of the public notice of the hearing.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is for June 25 at 6 p.m. However, that meeting conflicts with a Mississippi Municipal League meeting, which most if not all of the aldermen will attend.

A motion was made to move the June 25 meeting up a week to June 18, and aldermen scheduled the Truth Lounge appeal for that day.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall asked Lazarus if aldermen who attended the planning commission meeting at which the special exception was revoked must to recuse themselves from the Truth Lounge appeal before the Baord of Aldermen on June 18. Lazarus responded that he did not know if that was the case, but would research the issue.