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|Vidalia Council refuses to reinstate Danny's liquor license|
The Vidalia Town Council, following a heated discussion with the owner of Danny's Lounge Tuesday night, opted not to reinstate the establishment's liquor license.
In the special meeting, aldermen discussed the matter with Sandra White, owner of the lounge.
The license controversy has been ongoing since December, 2008, when the council refused to renew the license citing safety concerns and 37 complaints since 2006.
Both sides agreed at the start of the discussion to begin with a clean slate and move forward.
The city listed nine requirements for White to fulfill before granting the reinstatement. The list called for White to provide a certain number of security guards per 100 patrons, to allow no drinks through the door or out the door, to provide metal detectors, periodic review of complaints, training for handling obnoxious persons, to address loitering problem, to post club rules in the establishment, and to close at 2 a.m. with the parking lot cleared by 2:30 a.m.
"We've been over this a number of times," said city attorney Jack McLemore. "If we choose to give the license back it will be on a 12-month probationary period."
"We should have the right to call the Vidalia Police Department and it shouldn't be a complaint against my business," said White.
"VPD will respond -- now we have rules," said McLemore.
"I want to go forward from here -- make sure we are all on same page," said White. "From this day forward I want the same rights as any taxpayer. The problems in the past have been exaggerated."
"There has to be a balance -- police officers are not bouncers," responded McLemore.
"I feel the door should go two ways. We start over with a clean slate. I'm giving you my commitment," said White.
White then brought up a past issue involving a gun found on the premises. She questioned the handling of the matter by the Vidalia Police Department. She also said past complaints were exaggerated and never reviewed by anyone.
"I've tried to help you solve the problem," said McLemore. "I think your attitude is combative. Just talk about what your going to do going forward. You have a working responsibility for what goes on in your business."
As the discussion continued, McLemore told White, "I consider your attitude combative."
"Trust me you have not seen my attitude," said White.
At that point, Mayor Hyram Copeland weighed in on the discussion.
"This is not easy," he said. "I don't want this responsibility on the town -- if someone got hurt or killed there. So far in the past, it has not worked and something could happen that we'd all regret. I have strong reservations about this situation. With the business closed it has been very quiet down there -- usually have more calls in a weekend there than for the rest of the town."
"We started out talking about the future, but we're back in the past," Copeland continued.
"I came with the idea of going forward but I needed to clear some things up before we can," said White. "I have to have the understanding that it won't be held against my business."
"Every time an officers goes there lives are in danger," said Copeland.
"Then that means my life is in danger," said White.
"You are," said Copeland.
"I have never looked at it that way," White responded.
"I think what she wants to know is if she calls the police, is that going to be a mark against her?" said Vernon Stevens.
"That's the issue," said White.
McLemore said common sense would be used making that judgment.
At that point, Copeland asked for input from the board with Aldermen Maureen Saunders and Ricky Knapp voicing concerns. Alderman Tron McCoy was not present at the meeting.
Alderman Jon Betts questioned White on the state licensing of the business. He said according to the state permit, Danny's Lounge is classified as a restaurant that can sell alcohol. The classification requires that 50 percent plus be in food sales.
"I don't know what your percentage is," said Betts. "Are you operating that business as your licensed to do?"
"Yes I am," said White. "We have provided the state with the paperwork."
"I talked to the state today and was told they could not determine that," said Betts.
"They never told us that," responded White.
Copeland wrapped up the discussion.
"The issue here today is the liquor permit. We took away her permit. Can we renew under the condition that the nine requirements be met?" Copeland asked the board.
White then asked if she could put in conditions herself but did not specify.
Copeland asked the board for a motion to vote on the issue of reinstating the liquor permit. Knapp made the motion.
Copeland asked for a second required to put the issue to a vote and none was made. The issue died before vote.
"What do I do from here," asked White. "Are you saying don't come back to this board this year."
"No," said Copeland. "You have the right to come back and ask as many times as you want."
The council voted to reimburse White for the cost of liquor license.
In other business, the board agreed to hold a public hearing on Tuesday, June 30, 2009, at 6 p.m. on the proposed.
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