Proposed Tupelo ordinance targets unruly nightclubs

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – To answer ongoing concerns with overcrowding and disorderly conduct surrounding some nightclubs, the Tupelo City Council will consider a nightclub ordinance Tuesday.
A draft ordinance was presented to the council at a Thursday work session. It will be on the study agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.
“For me, it’s safety,” said Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton, who referenced a 2011 New Year’s Day shooting at a McCullough Boulevard nightclub.
The ordinance was drafted by Carleton, city attorney John Hill and development services director BJ Teal to focus especially on nightclubs that aren’t being operated with adequate attention to littering, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and assaults.
The ordinance would require all nightclub owners and promoters to secure either a city beer permit or state alcohol permit – which both require background checks, have specific security measures especially for large crowds and register annually with the city. The annual permit fee is set at $25.
Under the proposed ordinance, nightclubs would no longer be able be able to operate as “BYOB” establishments – where customers could bring in their own alcoholic beverages.
“A nightclub cannot brown-bag, period,” said Carleton in response to questions from Councilman Mike Bryan.
A proposed alcohol ordinance, which is also up for consideration as a study item on Tuesday, would allow BYOB under certain circumstances in restaurants without a beer or liquor license as long as it was consumed with a meal.
Nightclubs are broadly defined under the ordinance as any establishment that serves alcohol and/or beer and provides entertainment, such as music, games, performances and dancing. That would include a number of Tupelo restaurants that offer entertainment on a regular basis.
The ordinance does offer exemptions from several security measures for businesses that operate without trouble and whose business is primarily focused as a restaurant.
Events hosted or sponsored by a governmental entity or tax-exempt charities are exempted from the proposed ordinance; however, those groups still have to go through the permitting process to sell alcohol.
Voz Vanelli, whose restaurant hosts music in its bar, said the proposed ordinance appears to be redundant for the restaurateurs who already hold state alcohol or city beer permits.
“Their concerns are already covered by existing statues and fees, from what I understand,” said Vanelli, who is sympathetic to the complex situations facing law enforcement. “As part of my permit, I’m responsible for making sure I provide a safe environment.”
The earliest the nightclub ordinance would come up for a vote is the March 5 council meeting. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect in 30 days.
michaela.morris@journalinc.com