Zoning board says no to nightclub|[06/04/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The owner of a residential lounge will not be allowed by the Zoning Board of Appeals to reopen a nonconforming nightclub on Military Avenue, based on a split vote by the board Tuesday. Whether she may open and operate the lounge will now be up to city officials, who in recent months limited the hours neighborhood bars are allowed to serve alcohol to curb late-night, alcohol-related crimes.

Martha Maxey, owner of a nightclub at 2021 Military, said she “intentionally shut down” her business nearly three months ago, citing she “didn’t like what was going on” under operation by a previous tenant. She told the board she is now ready to operate the business herself. She said the building, which she purchased in 2006 and has operated as a lounge for “many years,” has been renovated to suit the purpose of its being a lounge.

When Maxey applied for a privilege license, required by any person seeking to sell beer or light wine in Vicksburg, it caught the attention of Zoning Administrator Dalton McCarty. The original privilege license had been issued January 2007 and expired December 2007 without any record of renewal.

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“Whenever you have a cessation of use for more than 60 days, the ordinance does not allow us to issue a privilege license,” he said. “As long as it never closes, it can operate.”

A nonconforming establishment is defined as one that violates zoning regulations or codes but is allowed to continue because it began before the zoning. The ordinance gives a maximum of 60 days for a business to be closed before it loses its status as nonconforming, McCarty said.

Maxey’s request comes three months after city officials changed the ordinance to, among other changes, require neighborhood bars, defined as being within 300 feet of a residential zone, to close between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 p.m. Saturday through 1 p.m. Sunday. When officials began discussing changes this year, only one neighborhood bar, Anderson’s Cafe on First North Street, was identified as nonconforming.

A change in a city ordinance in 2004 allowed Anderson’s, along with about four others, all defined as nonconforming neighborhood clubs, to extend hours until 2 a.m., a change from a previous ordinance that required them to close at 10 on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Owners of those clubs had to sign an agreement stating they would exercise orderly conduct and not do anything that could disturb neighbors. Percy Hall, owner of Hill Top No. 2, listed as one of the five nonconforming bars in the city in 2004, operated his business in the building now owned by Maxey.

She told the board she didn’t have a problem operating her business within the hours set forth in the newly adopted ordinance, which became effective May 1 with various regulations on bars and convenience and grocery stores across the city. She also said the building is not set up for any use but a lounge.

At the end of the discussion, board chairman Tim Fagerburg made a motion to uphold McCarty’s administrative review, which would disallow Maxey to receive a privilege license and operate the lounge. A separate motion was made by board member Fred Katzenmeyer to not uphold the review, which led to a 2-2 vote. The lay board has seven members with votes of at least four required for passage of a measure. Appeals are to the mayor and aldermen.

In other business, the board:

Granted a special exception to allow Triumph Church to operate a children’s summer day camp at 1600 Clay St., and allowed a gravel parking lot to be put on the property for one year with the condition that the process of paving the lot begins by the end of that year.

Made a recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that 2831 U.S. 61 South, property owned by Wayne Williamson, be rezoned from L-2 Heavy Industrial to MX-1 Mixed Use Residential, which will allow the owner to place a manufactured home on the property.