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Sheriff wants The Zodiac closed

After hearing presentations by Grady County Sheriff Harry Young and local nightclub owner Albert Smith, the Grady County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to schedule a public hearing to consider the revocation of the alcoholic beverage license for Smith’s Zodiac Club.
“My request is the club needs to be shut down or major corrections made one of the two. There is too much going on out there and it is not fair to law enforcement to be threatened to go out there. I request you look at it very strongly and see what can be done. If you read through the reports I’ve provided you you know what is going on. I don’t want to run somebody down, but my job is to protect the citizens of this county,” Sheriff Young told commissioners.
He presented a packet of information detailing the volume of calls and the seriousness of the offenses reported at the club.
According to public records, during 2010 the sheriff’s office has been called to assist Smith and his security personnel to clear the parking lot on seven different times.
The sheriff says violent incidents occur routinely at the club and he receives reports of underaged drinking happening there.
In February, a Zodiac patron was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, reckless conduct, underaged consumption, obstruction of an officer and tampering with evidence.
Then on Sept. 5, a Zodiac patron was charged with numerous violations after he drew a 45-caliber handgun on one of Young’s deputies who had responded to the scene with other law enforcement to clear the club’s parking lot.
“We don’t have these kind of problems with any other club around. I’m not singling anyone out. Many times my deputies are tied up out there from 1:30 until practically five o’clock and I need them out patrolling and checking on businesses in the county,” the sheriff said.
Sheriff Young said he would not have a problem with Smith or his establishment if it was not the source of a “problem” and if it was “not a burden or threat to the community.”
“A month ago we could have had a deputy killed when a 45 was leveled on him,” the sheriff warned.
Albert Smith, owner and operator of The Zodiac Club, said he was surprised to read an article in The Cairo Messenger about the commissioners being concerned with his business.
“In the past three years only three incidents have occurred and all were on the outside after the club closed,” Smith said.
The nightclub owner admitted he routinely is forced to call the sheriff’s office for assistance in clearing the parking lot of the club located at 1062 Upper Hawthorne Trail because his security “cannot handle it.”
Smith said he was told by sheriff’s office personnel to call when they need help clearing the parking lot. He said he has also erected no loitering signs in the parking lot on the advice of the sheriff’s office.
“The sheriff’s office has even commended my security for doing a good job. I have six to 10 men and women working security at all times,” Smith said.
He said his security staff is made up of former police officers, ex-military personnel and even certified corrections officers.
According to Smith, until the incident last month it had been eight months since there had been any incident of any kind at his establishment.
“All I know is this is an election year and I’m not going to get caught up in election talk. I’m going to talk about the facts. Why would this board threaten to take my license and close me down? Is it politically popular in an election year?” Smith asked.
He suggested the commissioners look at recent incidents at Cairo High School and he asked, “would you consider shutting the school down?”
Smith alleged that when he first applied for a permit in 1974 the board discriminated against him, but that he was eventually given a permit after an electrician who wanted to do the electrical work on the construction approached the board at that time and endorsed his license.
“It was a bitter pill to swallow how I got my license the first time. It is time to treat law-abiding taxpayers the same. That is all I ask of this department (board),” Smith said.
During the formal actions’ section of Tuesday’s agenda, Commissioner Elwyn Childs offered a motion to schedule a hearing to consider the revocation of Smith’s alcoholic beverage license and Vice Chairman Charles Renaud seconded the motion. The board voted unanimously to schedule a hearing, but as The Messenger went to press Wednesday a date for the hearing had not been set.
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley said the hearing would be held either at the Oct. 19 commission meeting or the Nov. 2 meeting.
This is not the first time Sheriff Young has recommended the alcoholic beverage license for the nightclub be revoked. In January 2008 Young made his case not to grant a license and the board voted 3-2 with then-Chairman Elwyn Childs casting the tie breaking vote to issue Smith a license for 2008.
Sheriff Young sought the denial of a license following a Nov. 23, 2007, incident involving a murder in the parking lot of the nightclub.

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