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City council tables revocation vote

The Atmore City Council tabled a motion Dec. 28 to revoke the business license of The Event Zone until its next meeting in January.

A public hearing was held prior to the city council meeting to allow the public to speak in favor or not to revoke the license based on the evidence presented.

During the more-than 30-minute hearing, members of the public, the business owner/applicant and two attorneys spoke.

City Attorney Larry Wettermark presented evidence as a part of the hearing on the proposal to revoke the license. The Event Zone, according to the city clerk’s office, is a banquet/meeting hall, located at 111 W. Ridgeley St.

Wettermark said city ordinance 28-19 allows for the council to set aside a time for the hearing. He then walked through exhibits of the evidence, which included the business license, which was signed on Oct. 1, 2020; a requirement signed by Owner Shaterane McNeal for occupancies for the purpose of banquets, meeting halls, parties, etc.; the notice of the public hearing and the reasons for revocation; a letter letting McNeal know of the hearing and the reason for the hearing; exhibits detailing events with “BYOB” written on them; and police reports detailing dispatchers’ times of calls for crowds and loud music at the business.

According to the notice of the public hearing, the grounds for revocation of the license that were discussed included holding activities on the premises not authorized by the business license; violations of the terms of the business license; violating the terms of the business license by allowing alcohol to be consumed on the premises or displayed by patrons on the public streets in front of the premises; and violations of the business license by actively encouraging and allowing patrons to bring alcohol on the premises.

City Ordinance 4-4 says, “it shall be unlawful for any person to consume or drink alcoholic or malt or brewed beverages in public except on premises of a licensee of (the) alcoholic beverage control board of the state; it’s unlawful for any person to consume or drink any alcoholic or malt or brewed beverage in a public place, such a place being one accessible and open to the use and accommodation of the general public except in the establishment of a licensee of the alcoholic beverage control board of the state; and it’s unlawful for any person to consume or drink any alcoholic or malt or brewed beverage on private property or premises where the general public has access and which is open and accessible to the use and accommodation by the general public such as parking lots and other private areas which are customarily used by the public.”

Fred Bell, a Montgomery attorney, who was representing The Event Zone, said when the city allows someone to purchase a license, the city has the right to revoke them, however.

“We’re talking about fundamental fairness,” Bell said, adding that the hearing was the first time he’s heard of the facts, and the evidence presented needed to be given to the applicant.

Bell said it all involves violating the terms of the business license.

“I came down to say there was no allegation, or nothing saying she could not sell liquore,” he said. “She called the ABC Control Board, and asked if you could BYOB, and they said she could. It seems two governmental entities are giving mixed messages.”

Bell said he wants to respond to the allegations after due process is held, and maybe this might be an opportunity to issue an abatement for the reasons of revocation.

Wettermark said he noticed that Bell held the notice of the public hearing and the reasons for the hearing.

Regina Frye, daughter of McNeal and who is against the revocation of the business, said not once has the police been called to her building. In fact, there are some five different police reports where citizens have called about the music or overcrowding.

“Not once have I had a shooting, or fighting or one broken beer bottle,” Frye said. “Mr. (Sandy) Helton (owner of Vin-Tiques on Ridgeley) said it (bottle) was in the front of his buidling. You (Mayor Jim Staff) called me. I got pictures and videos and everything. Y’all are trying to shut me down. Y’all don’t have the grounds to shut me down because I did nothing wrong.

“When I spoke to Mr. Chris (Black), the code enforcer, to give me a code for BYOB because people have weddings, banquets, birthday parties.”

Frye said she doesn’t cater to all black gatherings, but to everybody.

“When I sopke to Chris, he said there’s no code for BYOB,” she said. “When I spoke to the Alcohol Beverage Control man, he said there’s no code for BYOB. They have no problem with BYOB. Why are y’all continually harassing me? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Frye said Helton claimed, during a city council meeting recently, that someone urinated on his business door.

“Is he a scientist,” she said. “You have The Publican right (down) the street from me. They wilding out. I don’t have any problem with drunks coming down there at an event, and I have to ask them to please leave because you’re already intoxicated. I don’t serve alcohol, I don’t sell alcohol and I don’t furnish alcohol. It’s the person that rents that building that does the BYOB. I’ve been harassed for the last four weeks everytime that door opens. I’m tired and I’m tired.”

Angela Norman, who also is against the revocation of the license, said she recorded Staff picking up garbage early on a recent morning.

“Mayor, I videotaped you down there one morning at 6 o’clock,” Norman said. “You were around there picking up around the building when there was nothing to pick up. I sent it to some of your city councilmen and some of your (sic). Saturday, she had an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. I caught you riding in a Z71 white truck and you rode by. There was a white man videotaping wth a dog from a bench, and he picks up a chicken bone with a plastic bag.”

Norman claimed Staff, who picks up garbage on a frequent basis, didn’t pick up garbage after the Twilight Christmas Parade on Main Street.

“When they had the parade, you not once went on Main Street to pick up anything,” Norman said. “You came around Mrs. Regina’s building with a white bucket and a picker to find anyting around her building.”

“I’m not disputing it,” Staff said.

“That’s harassment,” Norman said. “They had all kinds of bottles and plates. Never once you went on Main Street.”

Staff said, “I told Mrs. Frye that I pick up (garbage) every Sunday morning.”

Norman said Staff didn’t pick up garbage the Sunday following the parade because she was at the building for several hours.

Shree King, who is in favor of keeping the business open, said if Frye did something wrong, she agrees she needs to be punished.

“But, if she done nothing wrong, it’s already hard enough for blacks to keep the drawers open on any business they have,” King said. “She’s just trying to really have something for the community to do. There’s nothing really for the adults to do, but go to the casino.”

Gregg Akins, who owns Gregg’s Salon on Trammell Street and lives above his business, said he doesn’t mind the event place, except for the noise level early in the morning.

“I have lived downtown for 22 years,” Akins said. “I live above my salon. Not all of your events are noisy. I am old. I go to bed at 10:30 (p.m.). I’ve called the cops twice on you for the noise. This past Sunday night I was awake until 2 for the noise.”

Akins said he has picked up beer bottles and Smirnoff Ice bottles in front of his business and believes they came from the event venue.

He was asked how he knows it came from The Event Zone.

“I’m not talking down street, but in the parking lot,” he said.

Another citizen encouraged Akins to not pick the garbage up, and eluded to Staff picking up garbage all over town.

Helton said he still stands by his complaint he made recently.

“I’ve spent a week getting urine off of my sidewalk,” Helton said. “There’s nothing I want to see more than seeing a business succeed, but there is a right and wrong way to go about it.”

Helton said The Publican has been there for a while, and he hasn’t had an issue with them.

He was asked whether or not he knew if the broken bottles or urine came from patrons from The Publican.

Helton said he’s never had this problem since before The Event Zone opened in October.

Additionally, Cleveland Biggs asked that evidence be brought to light on the accusations of urinating on businesses and of the broken bottles.

The next city council meeting will be held Mon., Jan. 11, 2021, at 4 p.m.