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Revision of nightclub ordinance up for debate By ROBERT F. MOORE MELISSA MANWARE Staff Writers

A proposed Charlotte ordinance meant to crack down on Charlotte clubs and parties that attract illegal drug use will be revised so that adult dance clubs would be able to stay open past

The revision, which comes up for public debate next month, is an attempt at a compromise with club owners, who'd complained the ordinance would snuff out the city's nascent nightlife.

But some club owners still aren't satisfied. They say a permit to operate after hours adds an unnecessary layer of regulation.

"They're making it difficult to do business in Charlotte," said Gus Georgoulias, co-owner of Cosmos Caf. "The police should enforce the law, not write the law."

But a history of drug overdoses and drug-related crime at several clubs makes this police business, said Mark Newbold, the deputy city attorney who wrote the revision.

"If there were no problems with drugs or Medic calls," Newbold said, "we wouldn't be involved."

Police and Medic officials say they've been summoned to Charlotte clubs, many of them uptown, more than 1,000 times in the past threeyears.

More than 700 of the calls were to the 300 block of North College Street - home to Mythos, Bar Charlotte, Have a Nice Day Caf, The Hut and Cosmos. About 200 of the calls were for 431 E. Trade St., the site of an all-night 18-and-over club, Midnite 'Til Six.

Permits act as compromise Patrick Cannon, head of the public safety committee, said the issue is about public safety.

"We have to find a way to let legitimate businesses operate and still protect our youth," he said. "I think there's a way to do that. There's room for compromise."

Currently, there is no restriction on dance clubs' operating hours.

The initial draft would have required 18-and-older clubs to close by 2:30a.m. and 17-and-under clubs to close by midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and by 11p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

On Dec.4, the Charlotte City Council will hold a public hearing on the revised version. That version would require clubs to get a one-year permit from police to operate without restrictions on a closing time, Newbold said.

Club owners who violate the terms of the permit, which are still unclear, could have it revoked after an administrative hearing conducted by the city manager's office. Club owners could appeal through state court.

"I think it's a fair compromise," said Molly Hedrick, spokeswoman for the Charlotte Visitors and Convention Bureau. "Allowing clubs to continue having safe after-hours operation certainly adds to our ability to market our city internationally."

The compromise followed several meetings among concerned parents, club owners, deejays and city officials. Last month, for example, more than 30 people met at police headquarters to discuss the proposed ordinance.

Most club owners said they were not against restricting under-age access to their businesses, but worried about having the city's nightlife shut down at 2:30a.m.

"If they want this to be a world-class city, this isn't the way to go about it," said Mythos owner Andy Kastanas, who opposes the ordinance - even with the revision. "(Police) should handle the drug enforcement and leave the entertainment to us."

Last month, Kastanas organized the Charlotte Entertainment Association, a group of about two dozen club owners and attorneys. On a Web site created to oppose the proposed ordinance, Kastanas posted an online petition addressed to the City Council.

As of Friday, 1,433 people had signed the petition.

Kastanas said even the revised version of the proposal gives police too much control of nightclubs. He said investors won't open new clubs in Charlotte without some assurance that their permit won't be pulled at the whim of police.

He said he expects hundreds of people to turn out at the public hearing.

Pushes bands away Some business owners also oppose the proposed ordinance because it requires them to register as adult or juvenile dancehall, which would keep them from hosting all-age events. They say another provision in the ordinance would allow the same type of concerts they promote, but only if the government profits.

The proposed ordinance defines dancehalls as places that have live or electronic music, have available space for dancing or where dancing is permitted and allow admission by tickets or fees. It does not include city, county or federally owned property.

That requirement, according to owners, would prohibit mixed-aged venues like Coyote Joe's and Tremont Music Hall from attracting live bands.

"At least half of the bands who tour the club scene won't come to Charlotte unless they can play all-age venues," said Penny Craver, owner of Tremont Music Hall. "The ordinance as it's written could also drive promoters toward city or county-owned venues like the Grady Cole Center because they could still attract all-age crowds. The result is that the city would then be funneling money away from private businesses and into city coffers."

Article received on Monday, November 27 2000 at 05:40 EST

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