SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Spartanburg County Council wants more time to look at an ordinance aimed at regulating night clubs, saying a proposal is too broad.
The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office proposed the plan at Monday’s council meeting.
“Clubs aren’t necessarily bad by nature but if left unchecked the environment can serve as a hub for criminal behavior,” Sheriff’s Office Investigator Mark Gaddy told council members. “Many of the live performers at these clubs are validated local gang members or associates of these local gangs.”
He said data from 10 night clubs and bars showed 333 calls for service in 2016, 309 calls in 2017, and 373 calls in 2018.
“These calls for service cover everything from disturbances to homocides with multiple shootings included,” he said.
Gaddy presented county leaders with a bag of 90 shell casings to see up close, after two people were hurt at Club 295 on March 3.
Gaddy says the club was since closed by the property owner.
“This is an example of a problem location that- had this ordinance been in place – would have been addressed by multiple fines and possibly closed before the latest shooting even occurred,” said Gaddy. “With the volume of rounds fired at this location, we’ve been lucky not to work a homicide because an unassuming motorist was driving by the location at times of one of these shootings.”
He said he looked at regulations in nearby counties, and the backbone of this ordinance came from Lowndes County, Miss.
“Law enforcment is looking to regulate several areas of business practices to assist with the protection of public safety,” Gaddy said.
The ordinance says nightclubs and promoters would need annual permits from the sheriff’s office which can be suspended or revoked.
“This ordinance is narrowly focused on businesses with an occupancy over 100 that make the majority of their income from the sale of alcohol or allow for consumption of alcohol on premise by BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) regulations,” Gaddy said.
It would regulate nightclub security, alcohol policies, loitering, littering, noise, overcrowding, parking, and traffic congestion.
The clubs would need to cease operating by 2 a.m. and have customers off the property by 2:30 a.m.
“I also have spoken to club owners – some of which are here tonight – all have voiced their support for such regulation,” said Gaddy, as a group of people stood from the audience.
Council members say the ordinance is too broad and needs more work.
“I think it’s way too rough,” said Council Chairman Manning Lynch. “First of all the item where county council is going to sit as the appeals board, that doesn’t fly at all.”
Councilman Michael Brown chairs the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee where the ordinance was presented.
“Surely no one wants to have anything in the county that’s going to pose a public safety threat,” Brown said. “It [the ordinance] does touch upon private property rights, private contractual rights and other things that could spill over in terms of what people can do.”
Councilman Roger Nutt questioned if wedding halls would also fall under the regulations of the ordinance.
“It’s not the intent that we do wedding halls but I can tell you that some of the language in this ordinance was crafted in such a way that we wanted to close the loopholes that Lowndes County, Mississippi was dealing with,” Gaddy responded.
Nutt said he has “a lot” of concerns about the ordinance, though he likes the idea.
“I don’t care much for giving the government more authority to come in and shut down private businesses,” Nutt said. “I do think the government ought to have the ability to protect their citizens.”
Gaddy said this ordinance would be a first for the state.
“I ran it through our county attorney, and she has no problem with it so that’s kind of the jumping of point,” Gaddy said. “This is groundbreaking stuff.”
The committee voted to postpone a full council vote until the next meeting.
“When you’re trying to address one aspect and one problem, sometimes it can be overly broad in terms of what you’re looking at,” Councilman Brown said. “We just don’t want to overstep our boundaries and come back months laters and have to come back and re-do this.”