The Okolona City Council adopted a lengthy list of rules and regulations at its meeting Tuesday night and ended a 90-day moratorium on clubs and bars opening inside the city limits.
"I know our city council would ban these type of businesses if they could," said Gene Barton, Okolona's city attorney. "We have done all we can, even to the point of getting an attorney general's opinion saying we can regulate these clubs and establishments, but we can't ban them."
The city issued a moratorium on clubs and bars in November after Rodney Shumpert, a Nettleton businessman, said he planned to open a topless club in the former Dub's Sports Bar and Restaurant building at 423 E. Monroe St.
"I'm glad we have reached this point and I am ready to move forward," said Shumpert. "This will be economic development for Okolona and will bring jobs and sales tax dollars to the city."
Okolona's ordinances and zoning say when bars and clubs can be open, where they can locate, what they can serve and how they must conduct business. The city's ordinance is 23 pages.
"These ordinances are very strict," said Barton. "We require a $1,000 permit to open a nightclub and a $1,500 permit to operate any type of adult-oriented business. Both of those fees are nonrefundable and if the business violates any of our ordinances we can suspend their permit and stop them from operating."
Okolona's ordinance will allow alcohol to be served but zoning requirements will limit clubs and adult businesses to a narrow strip of Old Highway 45 and Laster Street in Okolona.
"We have already talked about a new location," said Shumpert. "We are glad the city has worked with us on this and we would like to open in May.
"I want to assure people we are going to operate an upscale establishment. We have to follow the city's regulations to stay in business and make money. We are going to hire professionals to manage it and it looks like we will be investing more than $200,000 to open in Okolona."
Okolona's ordinances are modeled after the city of Flowood's, which have been upheld in court.
Shumpert said he plans to call the club Chocolate City and employ at least 12 people.
Shumpert said he chose Okolona because of the success of The Pony, another topless club on Highway 45 in Lowndes County, and because Tupelo does not allow alcohol to be served at topless bars. While Chickasaw County is dry, Okolona allows the sale of alcohol inside the city limits.