The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported from last night’s Little Rock City Board meeting that an expected “compromise” had been reached on efforts to further regulate the handful of private clubs that hold grandfathered permits to stay open until 5 a.m. The clubs have beaten back efforts to force earlier closing hours.
Compromise is a face-saving word for Directors Brad Cazort and Gene Fortson, who’d pushed for earlier closing hours, along with City Director Joan Adcock, long a foe of 5 a.m. closing.
The compromise, which will go to a vote in September, calls for additional security measures but no earlier closing. In other words: Clubs win. They’d already agreed to a proposal from City Manager Bruce Moore to add off-duty police officers for security, but they fiercely wanted to hold on to early morning hours, when they get a big chunk of their business. They got it. The Cazort/Fortson early closing proposal — 2 a.m. with a 3 a.m. closing on three days — had gotten a cool reception from other city directors. It’s dead. The Arkansas Times had been beyond cool to the idea — to hotly antagonistic.
The new proposal, which likely will undergo some fine-tuning, allows clubs to be declared a nuisance and have alcohol licenses suspended for problems in the clubs or adjacent property; the police chief can shorten hours if violent felonies occur; adequate lighting and surveillance will be required. Adcock said she wanted the additional security put back in the ordinance and “no loitering” signs in parking lots. Cazort said the potential penalties were good enough to push clubs to be good operators.
Bottom line: You can still get your beer until 5 a.m at Discovery, Electric Cowboy, Midtown, etc.
Most interesting sentence in the story:
Cazort and Fortson had been meeting with Justin Allen, an attorney for five of the 5 a.m. clubs, to work out a compromise.
If two members of the city board indeed met simultaneously with anyone on a matter of city business without giving notice to the public they violated the state Freedom of Information Act. I will presume these honorable directors had met sequentially to avoid such a happenstance.