Two New Proposals Emerge to Govern LR Private Clubs

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Private club owners and their employees packed Tuesday night's city board meeting for a marathon discussion about the operating hours of late-night private clubs.
What emerged during the meeting was a split among city directors.

"Think about the people," implored bartender Jamie Allison.  "The employees, the owners that have worked their entire lives to have what they have..."

Those who work at private clubs see it as a fight for their livelihood, but some on the Board of Directors say they're concerned for public safety.

"I took it upon myself  to do some legal research and look at closing times mandated by every state in the United States," city director Brad Cazort explained.

Cazort says forcing private clubs to close at 2:00am during the week and 3:00am on weekends would bring Arkansas more closely in line with other states. He and director Gene Fortson recently toured nine Little Rock private clubs.

Cazort says he counted 1,300 people inside the establishments on a Saturday night.  He says the numbers don't justify the economic loss concerns voiced by private club supporters.

He and other directors say what they perceive as high numbers of police calls to private clubs are a problem.

"What concerns me is that these clubs attained these permits legally and have been operating under these regulations for some time," said director Stacy Hurst, who along with some other directors say they're reluctant to support new restrictions on how long private clubs can stay open.

"I don't feel comfortable on telling you what type of occupation you should have," city director Erma Hendrix told private club supporters in the crowd.

After a long discussion, city directors voted to expedite the process and put two ordinances on the agenda for next week including director Cazort's that would cut private club hours and, according to Jamie Allison, cost her job.

"It's scary," he said.  "I don't know what I'll do."

The other proposal crafted by City Manager Bruce Moore with input from the private clubs would mandate extra security and give the city a course of action to deal with private clubs deemed a problem.

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