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A rough first draft for GSO clubs

by Brian Clarey

Here we are, just a few rotations into the news cycle that kicked off when the city legal department released a draft of the proposed Greensboro public entertainment permit ordinance, and already people are distancing themselves from it, sensing, perhaps, the stench of controversy coming off the document.

The draft reveals that the proposed changes to nightlife — which would affect clubs that serve alcohol and can hold more than 150 patrons — could bring about more questions than they answer.

It’s understandable for the city to be proactive on this front, especially after highly publicized shootings and a growing perception that Greensboro’s nightlife is somehow more dangerous than in other similarly situated cities. It acknowledges the potential for trouble wherever alcohol is served. And it does need to be spelled out — at least for the lawsuits — exactly who is at fault when a clubgoer pulls a firearm and squeezes off a few rounds.

It should be recognized, too, that the draft draws distinctions between large clubs and smaller venues, which generally speaking don’t have the same degree or frequency of incidents.

That being said it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that this ordinance targets specific clubs, and even club owners. Section 18-73 says that convicted felons shall be denied for this permit by the chief of police, but also offenders of misdemeanors like indecent exposure, peeping, prostitution and preparation of obscene photographs as well as other more material weapons and assault charges.

The draft also includes a blanket exemption for city-owned facilities, which is great for the new amphitheater at the coliseum but chafes some club owners who feel they aren’t being treated equally under the law.

Furthermore, it makes ad-hoc law enforcement officers of club security, gives the police department way too much power over private business interests and classifies all large rooms in the same way, which could lead to problems for some places.

Under the definitions of the draft, the Carolina Theatre will be affected by the ordinances as a “business open to the public where alcohol is sold or allowed on the premises… and where one or more public entertainment activities are also provided or allowed,” lumped together with Music City, where a shooting occurred last week. For that matter, so will Triad Stage, the Empire Room, the downtown baseball stadium and any restaurant with a seating capacity above 150 that dares to showcase live music. So throw Ham’s, the Village Tavern, the Mellow Mushroom and M’Coul’s into the mix.

That means these businesses will be required to hire one licensed security guard for every 50 patrons inside as long as there is entertainment — which could include live bands, DJ music, theater, sporting events, film, comedy or even a fashion show, but has yet to be defined in the ordinance.

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