City leaders unveil new nightclub ordinance

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Shockoe Bottom businesses owners and city leaders held a heated meeting Monday night as they worked to make the area safer. After two murders and one shooting, the neighborhood association said something needs to be done.

The finger pointing continued, but for the first time Monday night, citizens actually got a concrete look at a new proposal by city leaders. It is aimed at decreasing violence by changing the way nightclubs operate.

Residents and business owners may not expect to see members of the mayor's staff, the Chief Administrative Officer of the entire city, Richmond's police chief and several city council members at every neighborhood association meeting.

One business manager said, "It's bad that it took two lives in order for us to get to this point."

At the meeting, city leaders laid down the law.

"No matter how many people we arrest or give infractions to, it's about changing the environment," said Police Chief Bryan Norwood.

Changing the environment means changing the permitting process for nightclubs. This new ordinance would tie the permit to other licenses. Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall told NBC12 the city would be able to regulate any bad behavior by fining businesses or taking away their licenses.

"They're in business to make money, so if they're not able to operate, that should be an incentive," he said.

According to Marshall, the current law is so broad, it's difficult to enforce. The general manager of Have a Nice Day Cafe, outside of which the first murder occurred, wondered if this will solve the problems.

We can put all these little ordinances into place, but if there's still violence out in the streets, how are we going to tackle that?" asked Reggie Brown.

City leaders said it's a piece of the puzzle and they're also working on issues surrounding parking lots, security cameras and lighting.

Some business owners complained they weren't asked for input into drafting the ordinance, but city officials said there's still time. The paper will be introduced at next Monday's City Council meeting. The public can make its comments at the safety hearing in June.

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