Shannon board doesn’t reconsider bar license

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – O’Hara’s, a sports bar that would cater to Northeast Mississippi’s gay and lesbian community, is still in limbo after Shannon’s board of aldermen did not reconsider letting it have a license.
Of the five aldermen, no one made a motion to reconsider the June 4 decision, a 4-1 vote, to deny a special exception license for O’Hara’s owner P.J. Newton.
City Attorney Gary Carnathan said at the time the denial was based on concerns of necessity for general welfare, traffic congestion and public need due to another bar being across the street. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center became involved in the situation on Newton’s behalf when the permit was denied.
David Dinielli, deputy legal director for SPLC, in a letter dated June 28, asked the Shannon board to reconsider the denial. The letter also outlined Newton’s legal counsel’s intention to file suit against the city in the North District Court of Mississippi if they denied Newton again.
The letter said, “the U.S. Supreme Court expressly held that irrational fear or prejudice of an unpopular group is not a valid basis upon which to employ a zoning ordinance against that group.”
Carnathan said Tuesday he didn’t want to make any comment in light of the possible lawsuit.
Dinielli wouldn’t say when he intended to file the lawsuit but said it is eminent.
Before the board chose not to reconsider their denial of Newton’s license, Dinielli pointed out she had previously run a gay bar in the same location, from 1994 until 1998, successfully and without serious incident.
Before Dinielli’s comments, Shannon resident Darrell Clock voiced his concerns.
“I just don’t understand why the Southern Poverty Law Center is trying to make the town reconsider something the people in Shannon already turned down,” he said. “We have 192 signatures in two days saying they didn’t want another bar in town, no idea of what kind, we just don’t want another bar in town.”
jb.clark@journalinc.com