Meeting over proposed safety plan in Greensboro draws heated crowd, mixed reactions

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A proposal for a safety plan in Greensboro drew a heated crowd and mixed reactions at a town hall on Monday.

Some of the people it would impact, bar and nightclub owners, were there and voiced their concerns inside the Barber Park Event Center.

“I don’t know why we’re the first to be targeted,” said Drew Wofford, the owner of Chemistry Nightclub on Spring Garden Street. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board because I don’t think this solves anything.”

The three-page draft proposal for Greensboro’s first Safety Review Board is aimed to prevent violent crime at places that stay open late and serve alcohol.

After a violent crime occurs inside or outside a business that serves alcohol the owner would be called to meet with the board within seven days. The board could give written recommendations to prevent the incident from happening again.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the proposal was a first phase draft for what she hopes will prevent further problems at establishments where there’s a track record of violence.

“We are not looking to put on owner’s restrictions or to have small businesses spend a lot of money,” she said. “We are looking at businesses that have a history of violent acts.”

Some business owners told FOX8 they felt singled out since crime happens beyond bars and nightclubs, like at apartment complexes and gas stations.

“You shut down B.G. McGees, you shut down Tranquilo, but those bad actors; the people, not the business, come to our business,” said Jessie Kirkman, the owner of Jake’s Billiards and Freeman’s Pub & Grub on Spring Garden Street. “We have a good thing going and they ruin it.”

Business owners fear recommendations could cost money or put them out of work after they have struggled to make ends meet this past year.

“A new problem or a new crime that happened on your property that has nothing to do with your business, you just feel defeated,” Kirkman said. “We’ve lost employees who didn’t want to leave just because they are afraid to walk to their car at night after their shift.”

Kirkman told FOX8 slower response times and fewer police officers have led to more crime on Spring Garden Street and pushed employees and customers away.

“We do everything right,” Kirkman said. “We have the scanners, we have cameras, we’ve hired cops when we can but right now you can’t even hire cops because there’s a shortage.”

The board would have four members, a representative from the Greensboro Police Department Command Staff, Greensboro Fire Department Fire Marshals Office, Department of Neighborhood Development, and Department of Building and Inspection.

Business owners suggested additional representation if the proposal moved forward.

“What we’re trying to do is not as much penalize but work with businesses who have experienced issues at their locations,” said Nathaniel “Trey” Davis, the assistant city manager for public safety.

The board may make recommendations like hiring more security or buying metal detector wands to check people as they come inside. The draft states that if the recommendations aren’t followed the business could be deemed a public nuisance.

Davis told FOX8 the proposal is aimed to create a safe environment, not close businesses.

“We’re not trying to create new penalties and we’re not trying to place additional fines or sanctions on our businesses,” he said.

A partnership in place between Greensboro police, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement and N.C. ABC Commission to investigate and possibly suspend or cancel ABC permits following violent incidents.

In April, Greensboro police were called twice within a week to Tranquilo on South Elm Street. During one call police found four people stabbed and the other was a fight involving up to 10 people.

On July 11, police found two people shot, including a child, at One 17 Sofa Bar and Lounge on North Greene Street. On the same day, three people were found shot at Lucky’s Skate Shop and Lounge on Patterson Street.

Alcohol permits at all three sites were suspended or canceled.

Davis told FOX8 city staff will review feedback from the town hall, make necessary changes to the proposal, and hold additional town halls. There is no timeline for when the proposal will make it to the city council for a vote.

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