Council undecided on new bar regulations

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

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The LaGrange City Council discussed potential new regulations for bars in the downtown area. The impending changes stem from a homicide in early November where an incident outside a downtown bar is believed to have led to a murder.

Police believe a fight outside the 86’d bar on Main Street on the night of Nov. 4 potentially resulted in the subsequent murder of Tabious Frazier. Jacorious Jamar Thomas, 32; Traveous Kindrez Rosser, 23; and Jaylin Gates, 17, have since been charged with murder for the incident.

In response, city staff prepared a trio of ordinances for the council to consider to address concerns caused by bars and their patrons in the downtown area.

City Attorney Jeff Todd called the first of the three potential ordinances an additional security ordinance, which would apply to all locations with pouring licenses that pour after midnight. They would be required to employ and have on location two POST-certified officers from 10 p.m. to close on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The draft ordinance would also require that the same establishments utilize metal detector wands if their capacity is under 100 persons and a walk-through metal detector if their capacity is over 100. The ordinance would also require video monitoring of public entrances of the bars.

A separate proposed draft ordinance would regulate “brown bagging” locations similarly to a more traditional restaurant.

“In essence, it treats a brown bagging facility like a pouring facility in that you have to apply for a license, you have to get through the background check and it can be revoked if you allow continued violations of law or your premises,” Todd said. “It takes brown bagging from something that we do not regulate at all to something that we regulate much more like a Class B pouring traditional restaurant.”

The current ordinance requires that brown bagging facilities close by midnight. At the police department’s suggestion, the ordinance would be modified to require that the locations stop allowing new patrons in at midnight, and they would have to have everyone out by 1 a.m. except for legitimate staff.

The third potential ordinance would allow the chief of police under extraordinary circumstances to close down a Class B or brown bagging facility for up to 24 hours out of public safety concerns.

LPD Major Dale Strickland said the decision to close down a facility would be for extreme incidents like what took place outside 86’ed in November after the LaGrange-Troup football game.

“There were fights that took place out there, and it became so crowded with people that the sidewalks were completely packed. They were impassable and even the streets were impassable at one time. That would give us, where public safety was a concern or public safety was in jeopardy, would give the chief the ability to go through us as officers to shut the club down for a period of 24 hours,” Strickland said.

Strickland said when large groups congregate outside a bar like this they generally dissipate when they can’t go back inside and go their separate ways.

Councilman Tom Gore voiced support for all the changes except for the requirement to hire POST-certified officers.

“I think it would be a problem, both financially and logistically for a business to guarantee that they’ve got to have two officers,” Gore said.

Strickland noted that when incidents like the one outside 86’d, the city’s limited number of officers end up getting pulled to deal with it at a cost to the taxpayers.

“We end up pulling all our resources from the entire city, with the exception of one or two officers, and they end up at that place at the cost of the city and other citizens that may need services either are delayed, or we can’t respond quickly because we’re having to try to do our best to deal with that emergency situation there,” Strickland said, “We’re talking about yes, putting that back on the business themselves. They’re the ones actually that are in business, that are making money, that are or can be creating these issues overall.”

Councilman Quay Boddie suggested that it may be a good idea for the city to hire an event planner so that the city could be aware of similar events and prepare for them.

Strickland agreed that would help for public events, but the issues have stemmed from private events.

Councilman Jim Arrington suggested requiring one officer instead of two, noting it could be difficult to hire and keep two certified officers.

Strickland said the officers don’t have to come from LPD. Sheriff’s deputies and even officers from other cities could fill the POST-certified positions.

“We just want them to have certified officers that have the training that can deescalate issues,  that see a problem come in, can deal with any of the problems that they may be having on the inside and then turn around and call for a backup if they’re already there so a small problem doesn’t create a huge problem for us,” Strickland said.

Chief Garrett Fiveash noted that when incidents like the one outside 86’s occur the rest of the city is looking at a 30 to 40 minute wait time for a police response in the event of an emergency.

Todd said staff would prepare draft ordinances with options for the council to consider at a future meeting. Any ordinance would have an effective date of at least 90 days to allow businesses to come into compliance, he said.