Vicksburg Police Chief, Jacques’ owner testify in hearing for preliminary injunction

Published 8:12 pm Friday, August 4, 2023

Jacques’ nightclub, 1320 Levee St., will remain closed through “early next week,” 9th District Chancellor Debra Giles ordered Friday.

Following more than three hours of testimony and cross-examination during which Vicksburg Police Chief Penny Jones and Jacques’ owner Jay Parmegiani took the stand, Giles stated she would take the proceedings under advisement and deliver a decision at a time to be scheduled early next week. Giles did not provide a specific date.

The hearing was part of court proceedings between the City of Vicksburg and Jacques’, Refined South Restaurant Group, Parmegiani and his wife, Kara.

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The city is seeking a temporary injunction to suspend operations at the nightclub, citing concerns over public safety following two shooting incidents in the last four months in the parking lot adjacent to the nightclub.

The Vicksburg Post was the only media outlet approved to be in the courtroom.

The proceedings began with witness testimony from Jones, during which City Attorney Kimberly Nailor asked the police chief a series of questions regarding her understanding of the situation with Jacques’. The City is seeking a preliminary injunction, Nailor said, due to a threat to public safety presented by the nightclub.

Nailor also cited the weekend Mississippi River Monsters Mega Bucs Catfish Tournament as a concern, stating that the event is bringing “thousands” of people to the city waterfront, an area close to Jacques’. On Friday night, many boat trailers could be seen parked in the parking lot of the shuttered nightclub, presumably because the owners are guests at the Mulberry.

“The City of Vicksburg has filed a petition with this court, asking on a temporary basis that the operations and activities at Jacques’ be suspended,” Nailor said.

Jones identified Jacques’ as “a club,” stating that on multiple occasions since her appointment as chief, she had spoken with Parmegiani about incidents at Jacques’ and efforts to make the business a safer place. Such efforts include two memorandums of understanding signed by Parmegiani and a confidential agreement, which stemmed from a 2022 incident at the nightclub’s former location at 1360 Washington St.

Through examination of Jones by Nailor and cross-examination by Parmegiani’s new counsel, Joe Baladi of Watkins & Eager PLLC, the court acknowledged 15 incidents between January 1 and July 21 of this year, during which the Vicksburg Police Department responded to requests for service at the nightclub.

The reported incidents include:

  • A January burglary call
  • A February report of 18- and 19-year-olds in the business
  • A February report of disorderly conduct with a fight reportedly inside the business
  • A March assault on the dance floor, during which Jacques’ security called VPD and officers had to threaten to use their Tasers
  • An April report of 15 to 20 people fighting in the parking lot
  • An April burglary
  • An April stabbing
  • An April fight that led to a man being found unconscious on the stairs outside the business
  • A May shooting incident in which four security guards were shot in the parking lot
  • A July shooting in which more than 100 shell casings were found, cars were damaged and a window was broken at the Vicksburg Convention Center

Police reports are considered hearsay, so they were not entered as exhibits, but Jones was permitted to discuss the timeline of police calls to Jacques’ in her testimony.

Of the 15 incidents taken into consideration by the court, Jones testified that 13 of them were “not unusual” for a nightclub. However, she said, “Jacques’ is the only club we’re getting calls about.”

Baladi presented several pieces of information to the court, which he said illustrated Jacques’ willingness to comply with memorandums of understanding and the confidential agreement between the nightclub and the City.

One such piece of information, which was entered as an exhibit, was a series of text messages between the manager of Jacques’ and Jones. Another was a photograph displaying the proximity of the July 5 shooting incident to the bar.

However, Jones said, “That may be one area (where shots were fired), but it was not the only area.”

The chief added that, as of Friday, she could not definitively testify that, in either shooting incident this year, the suspects were patrons of the nightclub or connected to it in any manner other than proximity to the business.

When Parmegiani took the stand, Baladi asked the business owner to verify security measures in place at the nightclub — many of which Parmegiani said were implemented as a result of previous conversations with the police department.

On its property, Jacques’ has 60 security cameras, “No Loitering” signs, metal detectors, an ID scanner and between five and 10 security guards inside and four to six guards outside the business at any given time. Following the July 5 incident, he added, the business also purchased and installed two license plate scanners on Jones’ recommendation.

“I think we have complied (with the measures) to our best efforts and what is reasonable for business,” Parmegiani said. “People have drinks and they get — what’s it called — liquid courage? That kind of thing will happen.”

Other safety measures Parmegiani and Jones stated they had discussed and the business had implemented included shrinking the footprint of the parking lot through the use of barricades and decreasing the maximum capacity of the business.

“We have a larger capacity for people, and we have business,” Parmegiani said. “If the other bars in town were all as busy as us, they’d have these problems as well. When LD’s was busier, back in the day, we all remember what used to go on down there.”

In her closing remarks, Nailor stated that failure to grant a temporary injunctive order against the business would result in “immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result.” She also asserted that the Vicksburg Police Department’s resources are being misused due to repeated calls for assistance at Jacques’ for crowd control or altercations.

In his closing remarks, Baladi asserted that there had been no irreparable harm to the city throughout Jacques’ time in business.

“The police might have to make a call 15 times in eight months,” he said. “But the threat and harm to my client is significant. It entails serious constitutional rights and due process. The operation of a business is a constitutionally protected right. … I think he has done everything in his power to make sure (the nightclub) is safe, and that’s why there have been so few reports the first eight months of this year.”

Giles concluded the day’s proceedings by stating she would continue the closure of Jacques’ through “early next week,” but did not provide a date on which she would deliver a decision granting or denying the preliminary injunction.