ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany's police chief said Wednesday the frequency and severity of calls his officers have responded to at five city nightspots led him to recommend that city commissioners more closely review those establishments before granting them renewals of their respective alcohol licenses.
APD Chief John Proctor said a number of "violent encounters," including homicides on or near the premises of Big Daddy's Lounge and Club at 300 E. Broad Ave., Charley B's Sports Bar & Grill at 2401 Dawson Road, the Sand Trap Club & Lounge at 911 E. Oglethorpe Blvd., Club Xscape at 1019 W. Broad Ave. and Legends Lounge & Club at 725 E. Broad Ave., convinced him and Code Enforcement officials to recommend review of the establishments' license applications.
The Albany City Commission voted Tuesday night to hold hearings with representatives of each of the establishments to determine whether alcohol licenses should be denied or suspended.
"Our department and Code Enforcement felt there were some continual issues at these establishments, much more so than others in the community, that warranted deeper review," Proctor said. "Yes, the number of calls we've received from these establishments are a concern, but so is the severity. There have been some very violent encounters, including homicides on or near the premises, and repeated fights and assaults.
"Our obligation in protecting the public is to bring our concerns to the commission. We've done that, and now the policymakers must make the decisions."
City Attorney Nathan Davis said the five establishments would be allowed to operate as usual until hearings are held in January to determine the future of their alcohol licenses.
"I would think the evidence presented (at the hearings) would be clear enough for the commission to make a decision at that point," Davis said. "Of course, these decisions affect only the establishments' alcohol licenses. The hearings are not to determine whether to close the establishments down.
"I'm not trying to be clever, but they could remain open if (the commission's ruling) goes against them. But they would not be allowed to serve alcohol on the premises. They'd have to change their business plan."
A person who answered the telephone at Legends Wednesday said officials at the club were not aware of the city's pending action "until we read it in the newspaper today," but she said the club's owner did not want to comment on the matter. No one was at Big Daddy's, Charley B's, the Sand Trap or Club Xscape early Wednesday afternoon, and numerous phone calls to each establishment into Wednesday evening went unanswered.
The vote to schedule hearings on the five establishments' alcohol licenses was part of a busy, and sometimes contentious, commission business meeting.
After continuances on consecutive months, the board finally voted to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed EIG Albany Square to build a dental office adjacent to the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2707 Dawson Road. An attorney for the Albany Partners group that leases space to Publix supermarket and five other businesses in the shopping complex argued successfully that the proposed dental office would restrict view of the businesses in the complex, present traffic and safety hazards and would likely lead to Publix not renewing its lease when it expires in August.
The commission also approved alcohol license transfers for the Shell No. 21 station at 2824 Old Dawson Road and the Benchwarmer Bar at 2422 Sylvester Road; OK'd alcohol license applications for Corner College at 230 E. Oglethorpe Blvd., Vybe Bar and Lounge at 1020 Flint Ave. and Sports Zone GA at 703 S. Slappey Blvd.; and OK'd one-day alcohol licenses for the Darton College Foundation's dinner theater Jan. 18-19 and Quail Unlimited's celebrity banquet Jan. 24-26.
Commissioners returned Freddye Phipps to the city/county Board of Elections and Registration and approved a 1 percent hotel/motel tax increase, which is expected to generate an additional $200,000 in funding each year. The additional money will be designated for use in offsetting costs in running the Albany Civic Center.
The commission had not been able to agree on a designation for the funds, as required by the state, and Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta, who had offered a proposal to designate $50,000 each to the Flint RiverQuarium, the Thronateeska Heritage Center, the Albany Civil Rights Institute and the Civic Center, even suggested tabling the matter and discussing the possibility of designating the funds for use by the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority at a prebriefing.
- Authorized the extension of sanitary sewer for Southern Ag Carriers and the Albany-Dougherty Payroll Development Authority's new industrial park, both on Sylvester Road;
- OK'd SPLOST funds to finalize an infrastructure project at Hudson Lane and Lennox Drive, to complete construction of an archive facility at Thronateeska, to purchase an encryption system for police radios, to finance an E911 upgrade and to pay for a change order at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport's new terminal building;
- Approved sale of 0.35 acres of land to the Georgia Department of Transportation for use in redesigning the Jefferson Street/Liberty Expressway interchange.
The meeting became testy when Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff made a motion to table a vote on approving $860,000 in SPLOST VI funds for a pedestrian bridge across Slappey Boulevard for Albany Technical College. Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell had made a motion to approve the funding, but when Mayor Dorothy Hubbard ruled that the motion to table took precedence over the motion to approve the funding, Postell protested vehemently, shouting, "He can't table my motion."
Postell later chastised Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard's contention that "I will see a pool built in East Albany," saying, "That's asinine. You're saying you want your personal project taken care of rather than looking out for the safety of students at Albany Tech."
Hubbard pointed out, "With all due respect commissioner (Postell), you're criticizing Commissioner Howard for trying to get something in his ward, and you're pushing to get (the pedestrian bridge) in your ward."
Before the meeting, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith sent out a release acknowledging that the Department of Justice had approved a commission-drawn redistricting map for the county.