Greensboro city leaders, business owners meet to discuss new safety ordinance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — On Monday city leaders and business owners met virtually and discussed a new safety ordinance as violence has reached record highs across Greensboro.

Greensboro city council members have weighed options for an ordinance since fall 2020. The idea is back again in response to recent violence around the city.

“We’ve had to call the cops at my bar almost every night that we’re open,” said Drew Wofford during the virtual town hall. Wofford owns Chemistry Nightclub on Spring Garden Street.

Since reopening in his doors to customers in March Wofford has seen unusual levels of violence in and around his venue.

“We’re just getting to the point now customers are losing their minds,” he said. “They’re drinking too much, it’s a much bigger issue than bars.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan told business owners the ordinance is not intended to fix the root cause of violence, but to increase safety measures for businesses with a track record of violence.

“This shouldn’t just be a blanket approach which is going to be every single bar, restaurant, tavern, grill,” Vaughan said. “This might be an ordinance that you have to work your way into.”

Vaughan proposed a phased approach to establishments serving alcohol first, then convenience stores and hotels and lastly neighborhoods where violent crime has increased.

Greensboro entrepreneur Andy Zimmerman said the ordinance should include strict penalties for businesses where there is repeated violence involving weapons.

“We need something more than willy-nilly to stop the violent crimes that are happening,” Zimmerman said. “Can we just have a limit to where we say if it happens again we’re going to shut your business down and everybody is held accountable to that.”

Founder of the North Carolina Bar Owners Assocation Tiffany Howell shared a draft ordinance during the virtual town hall.

“We cannot be responsible for how people behave,” she said. “I can’t be responsible for someone who has a weapon out in their car.”

Ideas in Howell’s draft include permits for promoters using a venue, more police officers visible and ready to respond during peak hours and a commitment from responsible business owners to cooperate with inspections or investigations. It also included adequate staffing and the capability for city officials to revoke permits or issue fines if an incident occurs at a venue.

Wofford hired a temporary security guard over the weekend to deter violence in and around his nightclub.

“I am even looking myself at hiring private security,” he said. “Never in nine and a half years have I ever had to say I need security at my venue.”

The next virtual town hall about the safety ordinance proposal is scheduled for May 10th at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

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