Charles Samuels is angry, too.
The boyish-looking city councilman, who called a meeting last week at the Richmond Police Academy to address growing concerns over a spate of recent teen parties, says the events potentially threaten viable businesses nearby.
“I'm worked up about teen parties, but I'm trying to remain calm about it,” he tells a small gathering of residents, property owners, city officials and police officers.
The answer, he says, may be a new dance hall ordinance that would require restaurant owners to obtain separate permits to operate nightclubs and hold underage events. Currently, there's little recourse to deal with club operators and promoters who hold events catering to teenagers, such as two recent parties at Club Rendezvous on West Broad Street. After the parties ended, fights and gunshots broke out in the streets.
Tammy Hawley, press secretary to Mayor Dwight Jones, says the mayor plans to introduce the ordinance at the May 24 City Council meeting.
“We are being advised that the ordinance as it stands is unenforceable. The issue is around the definition of nightclub,” she says, explaining that references in the city code dealing with nightclubs and teen nightclubs are too broad. “Right now the entire code is unenforceable.”
Tracking club operators and having the ability to regulate such parties, however, is only part of the solution, say others. Teenagers need an outlet, says Charles Willis, executive director of Citizens Against Crime and owner of an entertainment business.
Willis, who says he's put on similar teen parties, says the key is to manage the door properly and gradually disperse the parties, which typically end around 10 p.m., to prevent everyone from leaving the venue at once.
“You can shut down Rendezvous tonight,” Willis tells the gathering at the Richmond Police Academy, but “they are going to move somewhere else.”