By CARL SMITH
The Oktibbeha Board of Supervisors will hear a presentation from Sheriff Dolph Bryan Monday aimed at developing an ordinance to improve safety requirements and reduce problems associated with county clubs and bars.
According to the board’s agenda, Bryan and Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan will speak to supervisors at 10:30 a.m. in regard to a club ordinance request.
Bryan said deputies have consistently been called to Club Rock, located at Butler Road and Rock Hill Road, and BJ3, located near the intersection of Sixteenth Section Road and Old West Point Road, for numerous noise, traffic and safety complaints over the past months.
In the past 90 days, the sheriff’s department has been dispatched to the two clubs five times for various complaints, including reported firearm discharges. OCSO Commander Charlie McVey said deputies typically patrol areas around the club because they “know they’ll be there sooner or later.”
“We try to watch them and make our presence known,” Bryan said.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 6, McVey and three deputies were at Club Rock checking on cars parked in the road and responding to a noise complaint. According to an OCSO report, deputies heard a gunshot from within the club and observed chaos ensue as patrons attempted to flee from the main exit at the same time.
“There is only one set of double doors the patrons can exit ... one side was not open, and the other side was partially blocked with a panel used to funnel the people into and out of the club,” the report states. “The exit became completely stopped up with people. People were screaming, bodies were laying on the floor and concrete of the doorway ... The crowd was not cooperating as each person was climbing over the ones on the floor.”
The other side of the double doors was finally opened, the report states, and a single door on the northwest end of the building was forced open by patrons.
Following the gunshot, Bryan said pepper spray — noted in the report as tear gas — was used by a club security guard. Deputies observed its presence, and the report states McVey was told the guard used the spray “in an attempt to get everyone to leave.”
“The gunshot and tear gas caused the mass confusion and chaos. The inside of the club looked as if it had been ramsacked (sic). There were booths laying turned up, shoes on the floor (and) the floor was wet from spilled drinks,” the report states.
The following week, the report states, a club security guard told McVey about 600 people were in the club.
Bryan said although he was unsure of the accuracy of the number, clubs should not be able to operate beyond capacity due to safety concerns.
“We were fortunate no one was killed in the incident, but I promise we’ll have a loss of life sooner or later if this happens again,” Bryan said. “The supervisors have to come up with rules and regulations.”
Rosenhan said he will address county safety concerns in regard to occupancy levels — the number of people in county clubs at one time — to supervisors.
“That’s the basic thing I’m looking at, but we also need to talk about the number and type of exits in clubs and emergency lighting,” Rosenhan said. “Something needs to be in place to prevent people from getting hurt.”
Road access has also become a problem for emergency responders. On nights where the clubs attract a large number of patrons, some choose park on the roads themselves, creating an almost one-way situation, Bryan said. When the roads become clogged with parked cars, Bryan said emergency responders could be hindered.
“‘No parking’ signs have been placed on the roads near the clubs,” Bryan said. “That helped for a while, but these situations still need to be addressed.”
Excessive noise has also been a problem for residents in the area of the two clubs.
“It’s not the club themselves, it’s the patrons. They go outside and cut their music up loud. There are also the ones who come into the parking lot and party outside because they do not want to pay cover,” Bryan said. “It is really a pain to the people who live there. We’re constantly down there telling people to be quiet. We’ve gotta have ordinances. These people are good folks and don’t deserve to be treated this way.”
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the board could discuss a number of different ideas in regard to a club ordinance, including limits to occupancy and operating hours. Both Club Rock and BJ3 are located in District 2, he said.
“I’ve spoken with residents (near both clubs), and the time has come where we need to take a good look at the situation. The way the county is growing, we may need something in place soon,” he said. “The board will take legal guidance from (county attorney) Jack Brown, and we could see a similar process similar to what developed the county’s dog ordinance — public hearings, drafts and tweaks. At the end of the process, we could have something we can pass that will give our county more teeth to hold people accountable.”