City going after businesses without dance hall permits

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The grace period is over and now Richmond is going after nightclubs that don't get a permit for dancing.

The administration is now issuing permits for City Council's controversial dance hall ordinance. It was passed last year as a way to help control problem night clubs, specifically after a string of violent incidents outside clubs in Shockoe Bottom.

Eight businesses in the city are now licensed for dancing and should receive permits in the mail this week. The city says it's taking two businesses to court.

"The whole city's going to get a positive benefit from this," says David Napier, President of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association. He believes clubs in the Bottom, have already made significant changes, but that enforcement of the ordinance will help. "I think it's just a level of protection if someone's truly not playing by the rules."

City inspectors visited 174 establishments they were making sure they were in compliance and they found two of them that are operating dance halls without a permit.

The owner of Xscapes on Grace Street near VCU did not want to talk to us on camera, but said he was at city hall today applying for a permit.

The owner of Tropical Soul on Second Street in Jackson Ward arrived shortly after we did and immediately disputed the city's claim.

When asked, "Do you feel like you all are a dance club?" Khalfia Maddox said, "No! We are not, never have been. registered as a cafe.

He says his business is a restaurant and closes most nights at 9:00. This line is the dancing area for Friday nights, which he says is not big enough to qualify under the city's ordinance. Maddox believes his business is being targeted. "Does the city want any kind of cultural entertainment at all? Or just certain individual entertainment? We've been very much singled out."

The city's taking him to court at the end of April for violating the Dance Hall ordinance. He plans to fight to the charge.

Now that a process is in place, the grace period is over and businesses have a limited amount of time to comply with this ordinance.

While 22 businesses have applied for a permit, city officials estimate that as many as one-hundred may need one. Not having a permit is a class 3 misdemeanor.

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