02/19/08 — Nightclub supported, opposed

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Nightclub supported, opposed

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on February 19, 2008 1:48 PM

A public hearing for a conditional use request to allow for a "place of entertainment" on South James Street brought 13 people up to the podium to speak at Monday night's Goldsboro City Council meeting.

The site is the location of the former Elk's Club between Spruce Street and Pine Street. The applicant, Henry Battle Jr., requested no ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) permits.

His request, he said, was to give the residents of Wayne County a place to come and socialize.

"Everyone on occasion would like to have some social fun," he said. And the South James Street location would facilitate that, he added.

Rito Jackson said he went to school with Battle and fully supports him.

"We have a problem finding a place for events," he said. "There is a real need for (the club)."

Debra Battle said that the club has always been a dream of Battle's.

"He loves entertainment and music," she said.

She said that Battle has been involved with music for 20 years, and throughout that time, they have never had a misunderstanding or violence occur.

"Give him a chance," she said.

Donald Atkinson Sr., who said he has operated nightclubs before with good security teams and little problems, said he supports Battle's request.

"African-American entertainment in Goldsboro is limited," he said. "When an African-American comes to open a club, it is met with stringent stipulations. Why?"

Atkinson said they could use the location not only for a nightclub purpose but also for speakers and educational purposes.

"We could speak to young men, to give them the resources churches can't give them, to give them resources the council can't give them," he said. Battle wants to appeal to "mature, not renegade, professional, extremely well-versed in etiquette" adults.

"We want a place to gather with out kinship and our families," he said.

Atkinson then started to raise his voice and get the audience a little rowdy, and Mayor Al King told him he was almost finished.

Atkinson asked if this was King's house, and the mayor replied that it was and asked police officers to escort Atkinson to his seat.

Others opposed the club.

The Rev. Henry Gregory Jr. said he was in "total opposition."

"It wouldn't be in the best interest of the community," he said.

He doesn't want to bring the community back to "drugs, gun shots, loud music inside, parked cars with loud music, young persons outside the club using all kind of language and the club being used as a public restroom."

"We've been there, done that, and don't want to return there again," he said. "I don't believe it would fit in. I want the community to know that James Street, the place that is called "the Block," is peaceful. We sleep at night."

And Gregory wants to keep it that way, he said.

Lula Powell and Pastor Betty Spruill agreed with Gregory.

"We have had problems in the past," Ms. Powell said. "This isn't going to fit in with what the city's trying to do."

"It's a community, and a community has no place for a club," Mrs. Spruill said. "It's unfortunate he bought a building in this area. This community has been through enough. It is time for the community to move a different way."

Battle previously requested a conditional use permit to operate the location with ABC permits but was denied by the Council on Feb. 5.