Mississippi city wants Shoney’s, other restaurant owners to clean up abandoned properties

Published 6:20 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

The Natchez City Attorney is taking action to address the old Shoney’s and South China restaurants and a business on East Franklin Street “that appears to be operating as a nightclub even though it is licensed only as a café,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said.

The crackdown on area businesses possibly violating city codes comes within a month after city officials started investigating Bruce Professional Counseling Service’s inpatient treatment center for adolescents with mental health issues, which was licensed as a daycare.

Natchez City Attorney Bryan Callaway is negotiating with Bruce’s legal representatives at Sanders’ Law Firm to come up with a resolution while the business remains open, officials said.

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“The city attorney is having to take action on our behalf with Shoney’s and South China restaurants because both properties have fallen into a very dangerous state of disrepair,” Gibson said during a Tuesday meeting. “There are other code violations in our city that we are looking at. One possible code violation is a property on East Franklin Street that appears to be operating as a nightclub even though it is licensed only as a café. That would constitute a violation, so we’re looking into that. There are others.  “Some are in the news and part of public conversation, but our city attorney has asked me not to bring those up because he is working privately as our attorney on those matters. I just ask everyone to be patient with us and know that we are moving in a new direction.”

South China restaurant on John R. Junkin Drive has been closed since strong winds from Hurricane Delta ripped the roof from the building in October 2020.

The old Shoney’s restaurant on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive also closed in 2020 during economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the vacant restaurant has deteriorated and has shown no signs of life other than four of five letters still illuminated on the sign by the highway.  “We already have quite a list of addresses that we’re working on,” Gibson said.

“A dwelling that had burned in the 300 block of North Rankin was demolished (Monday) and we are grateful to the homeowner for working with us to get that done and hoping the lot will be cleaned very soon.”

To help with code enforcement, Gibson said Communications Director Dustin Hinkle is working on a landing page for the city’s website, www.natchez.ms.us, that would allow concerned citizens to report any possible city code violations that they notice. In June, several city employees will be attending the Mississippi Municipal League conference on the coast to receive code enforcement training, Gibson said.