Nightclub owner given time to come up with security plan

The Grady County commission is giving Albert Smith, owner of The Zodiac nightclub, 30 days to develop a plan for him and his security personnel to take control of patrons loitering in his parking lot after the club closes.
During a called meeting Tuesday night, Chairman Al Ball called for a vote on the revocation of the club’s alcoholic beverage license, but Vice Chairman Charles Renaud offered a motion to postpone the vote and it was seconded by Commissioner Charles Norton.
“After listening the other night, it appears Mr. Smith and his security people have made a good effort to control the inside of the club. He has a right to operate such an establishment, but he also has the responsibility to control what happens outside the club on his property,” the commission vice chairman said.
Renaud said he was willing to give Smith the opportunity to come up with a plan to control activities of club patrons outside of the nightclub before voting to revoke the license.
“Most of the problems now are occurring outside the club. I like to see him come up with a plan and coordinate it with the sheriff and see if he can live up to what he is supposed to do,” Renaud said.
Sheriff Harry Young agreed to assist Smith any way possible.
“All I am asking him to do is to abide by the county code and state law. I don’t have a problem with him operating a nightclub, but I do have a problem when 15, 16 and 17 year-olds are going out there and drinking,” the sheriff said.
Both Chairman Ball and Commissioner Elwyn Childs said the allegations of underaged drinking also concerned them. Ball suggested that if the sheriff could prove underaged drinking was taking place to file charges against the offenders as well as Smith.
Commissioner Bobby Burns asked the sheriff if it was legal for Smith to ban violent offenders from coming on his property. According to Burns, this would be a way of prohibiting people who cause serious problems at the club from coming back.
Sheriff Young said that would be permitted and that anyone who violated the ban could be arrested and charged with trespassing.
In addition to concerns about underaged drinking, the other major concern is the loitering in the parking lot after hours.
Commissioners asked when did most of the problems take place and the sheriff said on Saturday nights late. The law requires the serving of alcoholic beverages cease at midnight, but the club can legally remain open until 2 a.m.
The sheriff says many patrons continue to drink outside the club and only leave when forced.
Childs asked if some additional part-time deputies on Saturday nights would help in combating the loitering in the parking lot.
“One deputy would not help. We can’t go in there with 300 people drinking with two or three deputies,” Sheriff Young said.
Commissioner Norton suggested requiring Smith to fence the parking lot and to give the patrons a certain amount of time to leave or to lock the gates.
“There is no reason he can’t fix all of these problems if he wants to fix them,” Sheriff Young said.
Smith was not present at the meeting Tuesday of this week.
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley said it was wise to delay action since at the December 7th meeting the commission would be taking action on issuing licenses for 2011. “Rather than revoking this license you could decide whether or not to issue a new one or not,” Cauley said.

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