Both the Starkville Police Department and Bin 612 issued statements over the last two days following an altercation late Saturday night in the city’s Cotton District as devastating tornadoes tore through the area.
On Monday, the Starkville Police Department said around 10:30 p.m. Saturday night, dispatchers received a report of a disturbance in progress at Bin 612 on University Drive.
The Cotton District bar and restaurant was reportedly trying to close the business as the area was placed under a tornado warning and “approximately one hundred people were trying to fight security from leaving the building and trying to stay inside at this time,” according to the SPD press release.
Bin 612 owner and Chef Ty Thames confirmed to the Starkville Daily News that the business was trying to close down and point those inside to a more appropriate shelter, such as the parking garage adjacent to the business.
“We’ve been talking to the National Weather Service and other experts and all of them said we needed to get everyone out of that glass building and into a safer structure,” he said. “We started clearing everyone out 40 minutes before, but a lot of people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to stay and hang out with their friends and felt it was a cry wolf scenario.”
When officers arrived at the business, a physical altercation was observed and officers intervened.
SPD says officers used pepper spray to physically subdue one male subject who was actively involved in the physical altercation. He received medical aid and was later released after a brief on-scene investigation.
The press release then said SPD did not initiate an evacuation of Bin 612 or any other business during this time.
Thames said the business relies on security guards from Average Joe’s Security, saying the Bin 612 does not use its staff or waitresses as security.
After the tornado warning was handed down by the National Weather Service, Thames said the situation began to deteriorate.
“The weather started getting closer and anxieties got more tense and security got more aggressive,” he said. “With the kids, they’re not listening and want to stay there and we are saying they have to get out and seek appropriate shelter and those basements won’t hold everybody.”
Thames then alluded to the building’s basement only being able to hold 15 to 20 people.
“The [basement] floors aren’t set up for a nighttime influx of 100 people and it can only hold 15 to 20 people,” Thames said. “How do you judge who goes down there? The best thing we could do was shut the business down and escort everyone out to a better shelter.”
In the aftermath, Thames also said Eat Local Starkville — the restaurant group that owns the business — will be in contact with other professionals to fine tune an action plan in the always likely event of future severe weather events.
“We’ve been talking to the National Weather Service and local meteorologist, having professionals come out and go over it, and they all said we were doing the right thing to get people to the parking garage,” Thames said. “ What we’d like to do is get them involved and get them to help me write a clear plan of action and do training so something like this won’t ever happen again.”