Stretching the city’s resources

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 29, 2014

So who’s up for drinks after work? If things go right, you might even get a chance to wear pieces of a bottle on your head and go the hospital!
As Mayor George Flaggs Jr. noted on Tuesday with the owners of the Upper End Lounge, no one wants to go to a dangerous club. Any place that has prompted as many walk-throughs by police as the top of 1306 Washington St. qualifies as such.
By our estimation, the business has abused the privilege afforded by Mississippi’s “resort status” designation for venues where alcohol is served. Resort status allows such a business to remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Based on the number of times the police have been called for disturbances of all kinds at the bar, it’s time the city dispense with patience and ask the state at the very least to either amend or suspend the designation for the Upper End.
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to how much the place has turned into a magnet for miscreants. Police Chief Walter Armstrong said police records show 122 disturbance calls from there from July 1 through Sunday night. That’s an average of 1.7 calls per day, which screams “trouble!” Fights and loud music were the basis of 39 calls. Another 56 came from officers either on patrol or walking through the bar.
Flaggs gave the bar’s operators 60 days to make unspecified changes or risk having the city ask the state to amend at least the lounge’s resort status or shut the place down as a public nuisance. To be fair, crown control isn’t easy when alcohol is involved. The hope is that the owners find a way to separate the winners from the losers in its usual crowd.
Sunday’s incident got Flaggs out of bed, practically, when someone texted him about a spillover crowd outside the bar stemming from an argument from a patron and the bar’s hired security. Not in recent memory has a mayor been pulled into a private business’ fray so personally. A man was treated at the hospital for injuries associated with being hit over the head with a beer bottle at some point during the melee, police said. Also, seven of nine officers working in the city were called to clear the area. VPD’s limited manpower shouldn’t have to be stretched so much for one business’ problems with its customer base.
Mississippi’s “resort” tag follows the building, not the business. In Vicksburg, 20 buildings have the status. Casinos are governed by a different state agency, the gaming commission, and thus are exempt from any additional oversight on this topic. At least three house businesses that serve alcohol. Those establishments shouldn’t suffer for the actions of one bar’s clientele, so the city must tread carefully on the issue. It would not do any harm to ask the ABC board to amend the status exclusively for the Upper End and have them close at 2 a.m. like businesses housed in buildings without the resort designation. It would be interesting to see what the state-managed board does in that instance.
Our community doesn’t need choices for nighttime leisure to be limited any further due to safety. We pay taxes to finance things like downtown street improvements, not to patrol a rowdy overflowing bar.