City Council committee postpones ordinance vote

By Laura Geller - bio | email
Posted by Meg Thalhimer - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond's nightlife is getting an overhaul and at a meeting Monday night, the public gave City Council a lot to think about as members put together a new nightclub ordinance. There were a lot of questions at the Public Safety Committee meeting but city leaders didn't have all the answers.

Two murders, several shootings and fights in areas like Shockoe Bottom, sped up the process of drafting a nightclub ordinance. Now, the city will have to wait at least two more weeks so the interested parties can hash out the issues.

This is not an issue the City Council is taking lightly. Hundreds of so-called public dance halls would have to obtain a newly created permit.

"This is going to affect everybody, everyone who has a business in our city-nightclub or dance hall," said Committee Chair Reva Trammell.

Attorney Michael Lafayette is the hired voice of many of these clubs. He explained the numerous gripes these business owners have with the new legislation. They include: a lengthy application process and criminal background checks that are more stringent than those required by the ABC board.  Plus, he said this won't get to the heart of the issue.

"We're stopping dancing, but we have a major public safety issue over here that's not going to be addressed by a dance hall permit," he asserted. "There's no correlation with dancing at 10:30 and a moron at 2:20 who is down the street and has a gun in his car."

But the mayor's administration and Richmond Police maintain the paper is a piece of the larger puzzle. Some Bottom business owners and residents agree; saying the strict rules are necessary.

"Because a few nightclubs represented by an attorney don't want to be regulated is not a reason not to be regulated," said Charles Macfarlane, who lives near the parking lot where one of the murders took place. "BP doesn't want to be regulated, see what happened to BP."

While they may not see eye-to-eye on some of the specifics, everyone at Monday's meeting agreed something needs to be done.

"How wonderful would it be to sit there, side-by-side with the mayor and council and say this is an ordinance that we promote and we support," said Charles Willis, who is working with the club owners.

The city chief administrative officer and the lawyer for the club owners are set to meet Wednesday to hash out some of those issues. No vote was taken Monday.

City council will continue its discussion at a July 6th meeting.

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