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|Danny's wants license back|
The owners of Danny's Lounge appeared before the Vidalia Town Council Tuesday night requesting "a fair shake" following the board's refusal to renew the establishment's liquor license in December.
Before a standing room only crowd, the almost two-hour meeting was so heated at times had Vidalia police officers had to help restore quiet.
Danny's owner Sandra White, along with her attorney from Alexandria, asked the council to reconsider it's December action.
The board had denied the license renewal citing safety concerns backed up by a stack of 37 complaints filed since 2006. The board had also requested that the lounge close by 2 a.m. to help curtail some of the incidents.
The business, classified as a bar and a restaurant, can legally operate 24-hours a day.
White's attorney, Ed Larvadain, said the action by the board was wrong and illegal in denying renewal of the license. "I would hate to see the conflict continue, but without any alternative left we would have to seek legal redress."
Larvadain also presented Mayor Hyram Copeland with a petition of signatures of those in support of license renewal.
"Even today Danny's is willing to work with you," he continued. "The owners feel that there is an evil overtone behind this in denying the license."
White said she just wanted to be treated fairly, citing failed attempts in the past to meet with the board and Police Chief Tapper Hendricks on the matter. She also cited negative media attention which she claims was not accurate and did not fairly portray the establishment to the public, adding that many criminal incidents in the vicinity were unfairly attributed to Danny's.
"I treat people with respect and I want the same," said White. "I want the same as any business in Vidalia. We are law abiding business owners and want to make a living in this town."
White said security had been hired for the bar, which had been closing earlier, but not as early as 2 a.m. She stated that the previous police administration had refused to work with her and that increased patrols would help deter criminal activity.
City attorney Jack McLemore said the town "has a responsibility to provide a safe place for the citizens to live. We have the right to operate the town in a safe and orderly manner We don't receive one-fifth of the complaints from other businesses that is generated from Danny's Lounge."
Hendricks agreed and displayed several Ziploc bags containing guns and other weapons he said police had confiscated from Danny's property.
"Did you support me to uphold the law?" asked Hendricks.
At that point, Larvadain said, "I can see the deck is stacked against us."
"They dealt the hand," said Mayor Hyram Copeland.
After numerous opinions were heard from the crowd, Alderman Tron McCoy weighed in.
"My ultimate concern is for the people in my district," he said. "As the governing body in this city, something has got to be done. Personally, I hate the thought of not having one of three businesses in my district."
"We have different issues all the time at these meetings — utilities, the elderly — and we have one or two people here. We've got a packed house here tonight and the concern is the hot spot.
"I understand the need for it —- but it has got to be safe. This is my second term and it has been a hot topic the whole time. Maybe moving forward we can come together.
"We've got laws and rules set in place. We do not need 'Mr. Brother' from Alexandria here. Let's close this meeting and talk about it like grown folks."
"No offense was meant to you sir," said McCoy to Larvadain.
After polling the council, several alderman suggested that the license denial stand and that the next six months be used to find a solution.
"Operate as a restaurant for six months and use that time to resolve these issues," said Alderman Jon Betts. "We can rehash the past all you want. But use this opportunity to show the chief and the board that you are making an effort to control the problem. You still have opportunity to get a license in 2009."
Alderman Vernon Stevens, in his seventh term, also stated that the subject of Danny's Lounge has been an ongoing issue.
"At this point, I have seen no good faith effort on part of the owners to stop this," said Stevens. "I don't like to see any business not open but we have to see a serious good faith effort."
Alderman Maureen Saunders said, "We don't want you to crucify us — but we don't want people hurt. We are here as one community. We care about your business."
Copeland suggested that McLemore, McCoy and Stevens set up a meeting with Danny's owners in short order to see if a resolution could be reached.
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