Prattville – The Prattville City Council denied a local businessman a lounge liquor license voting down the resolution 2-5. Council chambers were filled to capacity for Tuesday nights meeting.
After delaying the vote for two weeks and meeting with the ABC Board in a work session, the Council deliberated and concluded that the license should not be issued.
Councilman Bill Gillespie and Councilman Nathan Fank voted in favor of the resolution. Council President Dean Argo, Councilman Tom Miller, Councilman Willie Wood, Councilman Ray Boles, and Councilman Mike Renegar all voted against granting the lounge liquor license.
Hiro Koda, owner and operator of Club BTS, was attempting to bring a restaurant and entertainment complex featuring live acts, comedy, stunt shows, karaoke, and Hollywood memorabilia to the city.
Several pastors and private citizens spoke in opposition of granting the license. Concerns shared were primarily of a safety nature. Dr. George F. Seier spoke on this issue.
“I am with the Cobbs Ford Pet Health Center and I’ve been here for a number of years. I’m a very short distance from this establishment,” remarked Seier. “I am convinced that this is going to attract people who use drugs.”
Residents were also worried that having the lounge on the city’s main thoroughfare would bring in an undesirable element and increase the number of alcohol-related incidents.
Pastor Travis Coleman, of the First Baptist Church in Prattville, has lived in the community for about twenty years, and shared his feelings with the Council.
“I am very concerned that the lounge would affect the “family-friendly” atmosphere of the city,” Coleman said.
There were also a few people who spoke on behalf of the lounge liquor license, including Koda’s mother, Gwen Koda, who has lived in this area for thirty years. She stated that her son was honest and full of integrity and also addressed citizens’ issues concerning underage drinking.
“We live in an area where alcohol is legal, so please just look at the person,” Mrs. Koda stated. “This will be a smoke-free facility and no one will even be admitted in the front door who is under 21.”
Sam Golson, an employee of Club BTS, spoke regarding the issue of security.
“Most of the security staff at Club BTS is ex-military. We have been trained to know exactly how to handle different situations,” said Golson. “We know what we’re doing.”
Councilman Miller remarked that the entire issue was difficult for him because many elements had to be considered before a decision was made; however, a couple of issues were the deciding factor for his voting against the resolution.
“Well, it was the location, also the public safety issue… you know, the health and welfare of the community,” Miller said.
Councilman Fank cited legal issues as the reason for his affirmative vote.
“I didn’t see where we legally had… we didn’t have a legal argument or legal justification for not allowing the permit,” stated Fank.
Late Tuesday night, Koda released a press statement to Our Prattville. In it he stated his frustration, feeling that he was being punished for trying to do the right thing.
“Today the Prattville City Council rejected our request to become a part of this community,” he said in the press release.
“A lounge alcohol license is what the law clearly prescribes for our type of establishment, even though the word lounge doesn’t at all describe what it will be. We were advised by state alcohol regulators to pursue this license because that’s what the law says. Essentially, we are being punished by the City Council for following the rules.”
Koda remarked that Club BTS would have been a source of pride for the community and felt that the Council did not vote according to the law.
“Prattville is blessed to still have that unique hometown atmosphere, but as we grow it’s okay to have more venues of entertainment for young, responsible people to enjoy. Club Behind the Scenes is designed to be a fresh, exciting, but also tasteful establishment that Prattville would have been proud of. That could only have happened if the City Council had put politics aside and followed the law,” said Koda.
Koda suggested that the people on hand did not properly represent the majority of Prattville’s citizens regarding the licensing of his venue.
“It felt like the Council let 60 people speak on behalf of the thirty-five thousand residents in Prattville. Club BTS would have brought more than thirty jobs to the city as well as additional tax revenue during a time of economic hardship,” Koda said.
“It felt unfair that the Council used the opportunity to allow a second public discussion to give all the uninformed naysayers who were not at the assigned public hearing a chance to give their personal opinion,” he continued.
Koda expressed gratitude to Councilmen Gillespie and Fank for voting to approve the license.
“We would like to compliment the two Councilmen who voted in favor of our license request. We want them to know that we are sincerely grateful for their standing behind the state law as it is stated. – Thank you for doing your elected duty,” he stated
Koda has no definite plans at this time, but may begin to seek out another location for his club in the near future.
“For the question of what’s next for BTS, we are conferring with legal counsel and will start looking at nearby markets that will welcome a destination establishment located in their area,” Koda concluded.
Article by Melissa Parker
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