City board tables decision on Washington nightclub

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

After more than an hour of heated discussion and argument Thursday between the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen and an applicant for a nightclub license on Washington Street, the board tabled a request for a special exception for the business.

“I haven’t heard anything from you that gives me a reason to give you a special exception,” Mayor Laurence Leyens told Anthony Chiplin, who owns buildings at 2321 and 2624 Washington St. “We have gotten tremendous response from residents in the neighborhood who don’t want a nightclub, and we’ve spent a lot of money and manpower trying to re-establish a safe environment in that neighborhood.”

Chiplin approached the board Thursday to challenge an Aug. 5 zoning board decision that denied his request filed under city ordinances requiring a special exception to operate a nightclub. Under revisions to the code no new businesses of that type are allowed without exceptions.

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Without establishing a deadline, the board asked Chiplin to return with a detailed proposal.

The discussion centers on the activities Chiplin would like to have.

Chiplin, who also owns and operates a plumbing business in the city, has a privilege license to operate a pool hall at 2321 Washington St. The other building for which he is requesting a special exception is vacant.

The privilege license was granted to a business called “Family Entertainment Center,” however, shortly after opening, fliers advertising “Club XXL” were distributed throughout Vicksburg. Among other things, the fliers advertised operating hours until 4:30 a.m., a wet T-shirt contest, a DJ and bottle service.  As at the zoning board meeting, Chiplin said Thursday he wants to provide a place for teens during the day and early evening and rent out his facility for private parties and receptions as well — events that could include cover charges, DJs and alcohol.

In Vicksburg, a nightclub is defined as any commercial establishment that derives more than 40 percent of its income from any or all of the following: alcohol sales, providing setups for alcohol consumption or collecting cover charges.

The board acknowledged a need for more teen centers in the city; however, members maintained it is not a good idea to mix a youth center with a business that also operates as a nightclub.

Chiplin said he could provide enough security to prevent fights or underage drinking at his business.

“I’m trying to provide a place for safe entertainment,” he said. “There’s lots of places where kids go where alcohol is present and it’s not served to them.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett voiced his opposition to the nightclub as he did at the zoning board meeting. Chiplin’s son, Andre, also spoke at length in support of his father’s business. After pleading his case for more than a half hour, Chiplin said his son will be the primary proprietor of the business in the future. Andre Chiplin said there is also interest in developing a full-scale restaurant at one of the Washington Street locations — as well as separating the youth center from the business with adult activities — neither of which was discussed at the zoning board meeting.

“We’re not getting anywhere here,” said North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield shortly after the meeting erupted into a shouting match between Leyens and the Chiplins. “You need to go back, look at what you want to do and then specify in writing what your plans are for each facility. You’re confusing me, and we can’t vote on something if we really don’t know what we’re voting on.”

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he wanted to see site plans, which would include a determination of whether the buildings meet city codes for utilities and space.

On the agenda

On Thursday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen:

• Approved a contract with Warren-Yazoo Mental Health to provide services for city employees.

• Acknowledged employees for city service: Barbara Luke, 35 years, city clerk’s office; David Brown, 20 years, parks and recreation maintenance; Juton “Tiny” Miller, 20 years, building maintenance; William Crawley, 15 years, water maintenance; Barry Warnock, 15 years, vehicle maintenance; Charles Gladwell, 5 years, water maintenance; and Freddie Nailor, sewer department.

• Approved a request for $100 in advertising from the Warren Central High School basketball teams.

• Authorized the mayor to execute a contract with River Region Health System for a nurse for employees.

• Authorized a letter to terminate an agreement with Vicksburg-Tallulah Airport. The agreement will be renegotiated with VTR in hopes of coming to shorter terms than the 25 years that would have been required by a renewal, said Mayor Laurence Leyens. 

• Authorized the mayor to execute a 12-month contract with Surplus City USA Inc. for $3,400 for the police indoor shooting range.

• Approved declaring a badge as surplus property for retired fire  Lt. Michael Geary.

• Authorized the mayor to sign a service agreement with Motorola for radio maintenance.

• Approved a request from Vicksburg Main Street for an alternative parade route for the following: 2008 downtown Halloween parade, scheduled Oct. 25 at 10 a.m.; Let’s Go Walking Down Main Street event, scheduled Nov. 8 at 9 a.m.

• Approved a request from Vicksburg Main Street to buy promotional items: $100 for gifts under the Christmas tree contest; $1,000 for the old-fashioned Christmas open house; $2,000 for tree lights.

• Discussed four dilapidated buildings and overgrown lots and authorized Buildings and Inspections to proceed to cut, clean and/or demolish three properties, and granted an extension for one property.

• Authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Mississippi Auction Service of Vicksburg to sell City of Vicksburg surplus items.

• Authorized final payment to Hemphill Construction for the chlorine system project at the Vicksburg Wastewater Treatment Plant.

• Authorized advertisement for sealed bids for the 2008 NRCS erosion control projects on Bowmar Avenue and Alfred Drive. 

• Approved reports on privilege license, city sexton and tax collection.

In closed session, the board:

• Approved longevity raises for employees in the parks and recreation maintenance, vehicle maintenance, water maintenance, building maintenance and sewer departments.

• Approved hiring people for the parks and recreation, right of way, street, gas and sewer departments.

• OK’d transfer of two from water treatment and street departments.

• Approved four pay adjustments in the fire department and firing one person in the police department.

• Discussed one personnel matter in the gas department and one pending litigation matter.

The next board meeting will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 at City Hall Annex at 1415 Walnut St.