Proposed Club Gets Scrutiny

Proposed Club Gets Scrutiny

A new state law has given the Fayetteville City Council a chance to consider whether another bar in a problematic area of the entertainment district could lead to more 2 a.m. skirmishes.

Council members on Nov. 7 left on first reading an ordinance allowing a private club to set up shop on West Avenue near Watson Street. The establishment, called VIP Club, would have people sign in to enter. Sami Ammar Haddaji, owner of Basha Hookah Lounge and the Mediterranean Truck, submitted the application.

Act 1112 of 2017 requires private clubs to get permission from the local government to operate. The applicant still has to get a liquor license from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control. The act’s sponsor, Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, has said the intention was to give local authorities more say in what comes into their community.

City Attorney Kit Williams says the law doesn’t carry guidance on what kind of conditions a City Council can consider when making a decision. He recommends at least providing a reason if the council were to deny an application.

Police Chief Greg Tabor says that area of the entertainment district became more problematic this year than at any other time of his tenure as chief. Several aggravated assaults, a shooting involving former Razorbacks football player Sebastian Tretola and a man being severely injured from a rock to the head all took place this summer right around closing time on weekends, he says.

Officers have gotten assistance from Washington County deputies, firefighters, university police and just about everyone they can think of to address the problem, Tabor says. People pouring out of the surrounding establishments around the same time has led to alcohol-fueled violence, and emergency vehicles have had difficulty getting through the crowds, he says.

The business that formerly occupied the space, Dickson Street Social Club, has closed. Fewer people flowing through the spot has helped, Tabor says.

“Since the middle of the summer, we’ve worked really, really hard — probably harder than we’ve ever worked on anything — as far as getting this under control,” he says.

Kenneth Mourton, attorney for Haddaji, says his client is more than willing to work with police. The club would have half the maximum occupancy others before it have had in the same space, he says, acknowledging the activity in the area.

“Certainly it’s a problem, but it’s a problem bigger than my client,” Mourton says.

Tabor says certain measures could help, such as security guards with fake ID training, lights outside and the lower occupancy. The council requested more information about the club for its next meeting.


Next Meeting

WHEN — 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21

WHERE — Room 219, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

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