City extends deadline for dance hall permits

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - City Hall says its cutting restaurant and nightclub owners a break. Leaders are extending the deadline for those businesses to apply for a new and controversial dance hall permit.

The ordinance was passed 60 days ago. Under the ordinance, nightclubs and lounges that allow dancing had 60 days to pay $100 and apply for the new permit.

They only received the application form for the permit in the mail this week. The city says it will give them more time, but several night club owners say they are frustrated with the process.

Two murders outside nightclubs in Shockoe Bottom led to meeting after meeting at City Hall. The city council adopted a new dance hall ordinance meant to closely regulate the clubs and help with crowd control. Clubs and lounges that allowed dancing had 60 days to apply for a permit.

"Those permits would be due today, however, the city is instituting a grace period," said Michael Wallace. He works in the press secretary's office. The clubs now have an extra 30 days to apply, but the city's still putting them on notice.

"They will not be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor right off the bat, they will be issued a warning and we definitely encourage them to go to and obtain an application," Wallace said.

Michael Lafayette represents several of the nightclub owners and expressed frustrations today.

"The ordinance was passed September 13 and it took the administration seven weeks to print the applications," Lafayette said.

He said his clients are happy to hear about the extension, but says the warning letters are unnecessary.

"Getting a warning letter when you've only had less than a week to get the application and fill out the information I don't think any reasonable person looks at that and says that's fair," he said.

The city admits to a few bumps in the road with the process for applications.

"It is new however we just want to make sure that it's being implemented properly. That we have the right procedures in place and ensure that we are communicating with the business and property owners," Wallace said.

When enforcement begins, permit holders will be required to have a certain number of police officers or security guards on their property. Violators face a Class 3 misdemeanor.

"I would just hope the city does a better job in working with the restaurants and lounges if there are stumbles in the future, because right now the first step with the application did not go well," LaFayette said.

Nightclubs and lounges now have until December 13 to comply. The city says it will revisit enforcement of the ordinance at that time. Turn in your application to room 110 at City Hall.

Here is the page where you can click on dance hall permits to get to the permit.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.