Regulations for clubs should respect music scene, operators say

City commissioners want more time to think about security options

Figuring out how to quiet nighttime violence and crime in downtown shouldn’t quiet the city’s music scene, several downtown nightclub operators said Tuesday as city commissioners considered new regulations for bars and clubs.

“One of our greatest assets here is our music scene, and I’m worried some of these ideas could hurt it,” said Nick Carroll, an owner of the Replay Lounge and the Jackpot Saloon, two downtown music venues in the 900 block of Massachusetts Street.

Commissioners on Tuesday did not adopt any new regulations, but rather said they wanted more time to think about options – ranging from new licensing requirements to use of closed circuit television cameras to monitor downtown – that were presented in a staff report.

“What I can tell you is that we really need a homegrown effort on this,” Mayor Mike Amyx said. “We have a willingness to sit down and work with members of the bar and entertainment community. There have been some issues that we have to deal with.”

In mid-May, seven shots were fired inside the Last Call, 729 N.H., sending 200 people fleeing into the street, though no one was injured. In February, two men were shot – one fatally – outside the Granada, 1020 Mass., following a concert at the nightclub. And throughout the year, police have been finding numerous guns in vehicles parked near downtown nightclubs.

But several nightclub owners attended Tuesday’s meeting concerned that the city may overburden the nightclub and entertainment industry with new regulations. In particular, there were concerns expressed about an entertainment club license that was listed as an option in the city-prepared staff report. The license would give the city the ability to prohibit nightclubs from hosting live music or disc jockey events. The license is designed to give the city more direct control over nightclub businesses because the city does not have any ability to revoke a business’ state-issued liquor license.

Olathe has such an entertainment club license requirement. If a similar requirement were implemented in Lawrence it likely would damage the city’s music scene, several music promoters said Tuesday.

“We would want to know a lot more specifics,” said Josh Hunt, a music promoter with Mammoth-Hunt Industries. “Olathe has no live music scene anymore.”

Carroll said he wanted the city to gather more information on how communities with vibrant music scenes – such as Chapel Hill, N.C., Austin, Texas, or Portland, Ore., – deal with safety and security issues.

But Carroll said he thinks he has a good idea of what ultimately will need to happen.

“I think it is a good idea to get everybody together and brainstorm, but what I think really will make a difference is more police presence,” Carroll said. “More police presence at closing time is usually what it comes down to.”