A solution in search of a problem
We all want Greensboro, particularly downtown, to be a safe, vibrant and prosperous city. The three qualities are interdependent, but getting the right balance is essential. The stool collapses if any of the three legs are removed.
The point of urban living is that lots of people live, work and play within close proximity to each other. That requires a higher level of tolerance for people who are interested in different pursuits — sleeping, partying and transacting commerce, for example — and a more delicate balancing of the scale, again, particularly downtown.
So it’s always worth having a conversation about public safety when it comes to nightlife and entertainment venues. But the move to create a licensing system for entertainment facilities — defined in a draft ordinance as venues with an occupancy of 150 or more that are open after 9 a.m. and all sexually oriented entertainment businesses open after 9 p.m. — in Greensboro is getting off on the wrong foot.
THECURRENT PROPOSAL TO REQUIRE THAT ENTERTAINMENT FACILITIES BE LICENSED WITH THECITY AND SUBJECT TO THE THREAT OF REVOCATION BY THE BOARD OF ADJUSTMENTS FORREPEATED VIOLATIONS IS OVERLY BURDENSOME.
No one has articulate any compelling reason for overhauling regulations on nightclubs or any other entertainment venues, leaving business owners, patrons and other citizens to scratch their heads about why this is happen- ing. We know that about two years ago a shooting by a patron who had left the N Club prompted an effort by District 3 Council man Zack Matheny to push through a whole slate of public safety changes, including a teen curfew and a proposal for new regulations on nightclubs. The teen curfew was enacted in a hurry and then lapsed without having much impact one way or the other. Club owners fought earlier proposals for a licensing system, and the initiative appeared to be shelved. One can only assume that the work undertaken by the new entertainment facility use ordinance review committee chaired by Matheny is unfinished business.
There’s plenty of reason for caution. No one has explained why this overhaul is needed. And there’s no evidence that past efforts have accomplished anything other than burnishing a certain council member’s public-safety credentials. Also, with one possible — and disputed — exception, since the shooting outside the N Club, there’s no evidence of a continuing or escalating pattern of violence and disturbances in nightclubs.
The current proposal to require that entertainment facilities be licensed with the city and subject to the threat of revocation by the Board of Adjustments for repeated violations is overly burdensome.
Some provisions of the proposed Public Entertainment Uses Security Manual are worth considering, including posting security personnel in parking lots outside of nightclubs, staggered removal of conflicting patrons and barring security personnel from consuming alcohol while on the clock, but each one should be taken up and debated separately.
The committee meets on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the plaza-level conference room in Melvin Municipal Office Building, anyone who cares about the nightlife, the vibrancy of downtown, the health of the entertainment industry and, yes, public safety, should be there and be heard.
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