Event Zone owner claims harassed by city officials
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The Monday, December 28 meeting of Atmore City Council only took a couple of minutes, as only one item appeared on the business agenda. It was getting to that item that stretched the session into a 45-minute series of arguments, claims and counterclaims.
A movement to revoke the business license of The Event Zone was eventually tabled after a lengthy public hearing on the matter.
City Attorney Larry Wettermark opened the hearing, which eventually was conducted in front of an audience of 21 people, by pointing out that social media advertisements and complaints from citizens indicate that alcohol is sometimes served in the establishment, which operates out of the former Country Charms building and has no liquor license.
The city’s legal counsel pointed out that the license application included that the license holder “must take all necessary steps to see that alcohol is not consumed on the premises” and must keep all patrons from having alcohol on streets, parking lots or the “other surrounds” of the business.
Wettermark explained that the city had met all its legal obligations regarding notice of a public hearing, and the reason for a public hearing.
Then Event Zone owner Regina Frye’s attorney – Fred Bell Sr., a Constitutional law specialist from Montgomery – spoke on his client’s behalf.
Bell asked council members to give him time to study the issue and respond in writing to what he said appears to be a lapse in due process.
“Right now, I don’t know who made the allegations against my client; I don’t know who put the ads on Facebook. I think, if there’s a problem, y’all ought to give her a chance to abate it.”
Bell added that he thought it was “too tenuous for her to comment right now,” but Frye apparently paid little notice. She addressed the council on what she called the harassment to which she has been subjected since she opened the event hall to parties and celebrations a couple of months ago.
“Not once have the police been called to my building,” she said, a claim later refuted by Police Chief Chuck Brooks. “Not once have I had a fight; not once have I had a shooting.
“Y’all are trying to shut me down with no reason, but y’all don’t have a leg to stand on to shut me down. I have been harassed for the past four weeks, every time the door opened, and I’m tired [of it].”
Brooks said after the meeting that police have been called to the business five times after receiving complaints about noise and crowds in the street. He said officers on two occasions had to disperse a crowd and order people to leave the area – once when a noise complaint was received and once when several patrons congregated in a local parking lot.
Her argument brought scattered applause and even an “amen” from the crowd.
Local businessmen Gregg Akins and Sandy Helton tried to explain their concerns over the noise generated by some of Frye’s events, as well as the litter that is reportedly scattered across the surrounding area after events have ended. Each attempt was met with argument from others in the audience, and Mayor Jim Staff even had to verbally break up one such disagreement.
The hearing eventually disintegrated into claims that opened the festering wound of racial divide within the city.
Speaking in support of Frye were Angelia Norman, Shree King, Sandra Gray and Cleveland Biggs. Each expressed his or her feelings that the business should be allowed to continue operations, and each made a racial issue of the city’s attempt to close Frye’s enterprise.
“If she’s done wrong, she needs to be punished,” King said. “But it’s hard enough for blacks to even keep the doors open on any business they have. If blacks want to open a club, they can’t; it’s closed. If blacks want to open a bar, they can’t; it’s closed. Anything that the black community wants, or an African American wants to do, we can’t. All I’m asking is that you give us a chance.”
Further discussion included that alcoholic beverages are allowed at events like Ribs on Ridgeley, and private organizations are allowed to have BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) gatherings.
“If it’s fair for them, it’s fair for her,” an unidentified woman said.
The hearing finally ended, and the council voted unanimously to table the revocation issue until it could be studied further.