Business owners in Mobile’s downtown entertainment district met with police and city officials Tuesday afternoon to discuss ways of making the area safer following two shootings that were reported over the weekend.
Currently, the Mobile Police Department and others in Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration are working to develop recommendations to the Mobile City Council.
The council voted to recess its regular meeting on Tuesday in order to address the issue of public safety in downtown more specifically in smaller groups.
They’re expected to vote on a recommendation from Mobile Police Chief James Barber at 8 a.m., Aug. 16, in Government Plaza.
District 2 Councilman Levon Manzie sat in on the lengthy meeting, though he didn’t give local media much information about what was covered because Barber and his staff are still mulling over what approach they might use.
“What we’re going to do is act on the recommendations that we receive from Chief Barber and his staff. They are assembled now working on those recommendations this evening,” Manzie said.
Gregory Loughlin, who manages a bar in the entertainment district, said one thing that could help the situation is better enforcement of the laws already on the books — like those prohibiting non-member clubs from staying open past 2 a.m. or nightclubs that improperly admit underage patrons.
“The law says if you do 50 percent of your sales in food, then you can allow 18-year-olds to come in really to eat food, but there’s no food being served at these clubs at these hours of the night,” Loughlin said. “We’re going to have to decide as a community — are we OK with 18-year-old kids going into a club and drinking or not? If not, then we just need to lay it out as 21 and up.”
Carol Hunter, director of communications for the Downtown Mobile Alliance, said there was also broad support among business owners for changing the cutoff time for open containers in the entertainment district from 2 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Police officers are also considering increasing their presence downtown during late night and early morning hours.
Though she didn’t address the alliance’s position on any specific changes, Hunter did say the organization would “support anything that makes downtown safer.”
Following a shooting incident in July, the MPD has already stepped up its enforcement of other city ordinances, like the open container law and the “boom box” or noise ordinance.
Last weekend, Loughlin said officers “did a good job” of preventing motorists from aimlessly “cruising” through parts of the entertain district.
However, Loughlin said it will up to bar owners and managers to continue to work with police if the entertainment district is going to seeing positive changes.
“A lot of people aren’t even going into these clubs and some are bringing their own alcohol. The businesses, we need to do our part too, in making sure that our sound system is inside the club not allowing it to be a party on the street outside,” he said. “When you’re on Bourbon Street, it moves. People walk down the street. Here, they’re staking out territory and sticking there. You’re not supposed to be blocking the sidewalks, anyway.”
When asked if he thought the city’s plans to the address the issue would prove fruitful, Loughlin said he’s “always hopeful,” but said letting things continue as they are now would be bad for all of the businesses downtown.
“It’s been affecting everybody’s business,” he said. “We’re 21 and up. That’s our policy, but when all this happens, it causes concern for people going downtown to eat at the restaurants, staying in the hotels, going to the nightclubs and visiting art galleries. It affects everybody.”