Owners of Mississippi bar near where police used Tasers, tear gas to quell crowd: ‘We can’t control what goes on in the streets’
Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023
The owners of a Mississippi bar where a fight inside the lounge escalated to a morning melee in the streets say they are being targeted by the city and treated differently than other similar businesses after elected leaders voted to shut down their establishment.
Ricky Banks and David Haywood are partners in the Truth Lounge, which opened in April at 719-1/2 Franklin St.
After an early Saturday morning melee in the streets and a fight inside the lounge that lasted almost 20 minutes after police officers and sheriff’s deputies entered to try to keep the peace, the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen met in a special-called meeting on Saturday afternoon and voted to close the establishment until at least its next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23.
On Aug. 29, the city’s board of aldermen in a split vote moved to enact its chronic nuisance ordinance on owners of the Truth Lounge seeking to get its cooperation to establish decorum at that location.
After the city’s August meeting with the owners of the Truth Lounge, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson declared all was well and a plan to keep the peace in the area was in place. He made the announcement during a press conference in which he deputized deputies of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Travis Patten to allow them to aid the city’s police department and enforce city ordinances.
“We were told to take care of our business and the sidewalk directly outside of it, and the city would handle the rest,” meaning the loiterers in parking lots outside, Haywood said. “That came directly from the city administration.”
During that press conference, held by the mayor on the steps of City Hall, Banks said the mayor admitted Truth Lounge was not the problem.
“He said it was a global problem. They told us all they wanted us to do was protect the interest of our business, that anything outside on the sidewalk they would take care of with this city and county mutual task force. That went on for awhile and then it died off,” Banks said. “That’s when I heard from the officers they were short handed.”
Banks and Haywood said the fight on Friday night inside Truth Lounge was the first since the business opened.
“There have been multiple incidents at other places, but they haven’t closed those places down. The same standards they have done for us are not being done across the board,” Haywood said. “There have been multiple incidents in the same line of business as ours, but they haven’t had to go through what we have went through. We have been wronged in a very serious manner, to be honest with you.”
Haywood and Banks said they couldn’t be held responsible for what goes on outside their business, when those people are not their customers. They said the capacity established for their business is 75, and they have strictly enforced that.
“If we are inside managing our business and trying to provide a good quality customer service for our customers who come into the lounge, and we have been told to leave the adjacent parking lots to the city, how can we be responsible for what happens outside? Those things are not our responsibility,” Haywood said.
The pair said they have talked with neighboring businesses and have worked to be good neighbors. They, as well as an employee, have worked each week to clean up parking lots the next mornings.
“We want to be great neighbors. We have had great conversations with our neighbors. We would not dare try to damage other businesses. We truly want Natchez to be united,” Haygood said.
“We can’t control what goes on in the streets of Natchez. That’s why we tried to get police support and meet with the police department. We don’t want anything to happen on our streets. We want to protect the image of Franklin Street,” Banks said.
Further, Banks and Haywood said they have operated with hired security every day Truth Lounge has been opened.
“We have always had off-duty sheriff’s officers. On Thursdays, we have two. On Fridays and Saturdays, we employ four. On the night of this incident, we hired five security officers. This was homecoming weekend and it was pretty big. It wasn’t your average weekend, which is why we beefed up security to have extra protection,” Banks said.