[Update] Lowndes County, Ga. - April 06, 2012 -
Lowndes County changed the rules in February so that no bars could stay open past two a.m., but now many are asking why one night club is advertising that they are open till six in the morning.
Club Vegas on highway 84 is waging a public war against Lowndes County. Using their street sign they air their frustration against rule changes they call unfair.
Here the sign advertises themselves as the "After Party Spot", open till six in the morning. When in February the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners voted that all bars and night clubs need to be closed and locked by two a.m.
"We found that that's our better crowd is the after two o'clock crowd. It's really that people are accustomed to coming out to Vegas after all the other bars shutdown. It's kind of our niche," said Club Vegas Assistant Manager John Thornton.
They can do that because they found a loop hole in the law. Believe it or not, they're not selling any alcohol. They forfeited their alcohol license.
Clubs like Vegas, outside city limits, used to be able to stay open all night legally and just stop selling alcohol at two a.m. Lowndes County Clerk Paige Dukes says the Board of Commissioners changed that because they say too many people tempted fate by driving from city to county bars after already drinking.
She also says Club Vegas has received an especially high volume of noise complaints and police calls. Take a quick walk through nearby neighborhoods and you'll find plenty of people who have complained about the noise.
"Quite often at four o'clock in the morning I wake up and it's hard to get back to sleep because of the noise," says Terry Erskine, a nearby resident.
Erskine describes the sound, "All you hear is the boomp, boomp, just the bass."
Club Vegas has been operating its extended hours since Thursday March 29th.
Lowndes County, Georgia - Feb. 26, 2012 -
Many party-goers in Lowndes County have enjoyed looser alcohol restrictions in bars outside the Valdosta City Limits, but now that is no longer the case.
If there were ever an expert on partying, they'd be college students. Erik Hopfvnsperger and Adam Patrick are Valdosta State University students who tell Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that they are avid bar patrons.
"Yeah, on the weekends me and my buddies go out and have a good ole time," Hopfvnsperger tells Gullberg.
Hopfvnsperger and Patrick say they frequent local hot spots like the Remerton Strip. But when the doors close at two a.m. is the party over?
"Everybody knows when the bars close around here, you can go to a place like Rock n' Rodeo, Vegas, anything like that," says Patrick.
Bars in Lowndes County, outside Valdosta city limits, have been able to serve alcohol a full hour later, nearly three a.m. And there's been no rule on how late their doors can stay open. Until now.
The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners rewrote the rules on county alcohol sales. Specifically, they've rewritten the alcohol ordinance to make county bars share the same restrictions as city bars. Now when the clock strikes 1:55 a.m., drinks are down and the doors are closed.
Over the phone, Lowndes County Clerk Paige Dukes tells me it's a matter of safety. Too many people tempted fate by driving from city to county bars after already drinking.
And bars keeping their doors open past last call allowed patrons to purchase enough alcohol to last them for hours. Dukes says at times that would keep them drinking in the bars as late as five a.m.
But some bar patrons don't think it's fair. Gullberg found Mike Cadle enjoying a Sunday afternoon beer at "Cuz's" on Bemiss Road.
"It ain't hurting the county. It's going to hurt the business men now that they've got to cutback on hours. And that's less revenue generated by the local bars," Cadle says.
Employees at "Cuz's" say it's cutting into their business and a few bad apples are ruining it for the bunch. Club Vegas on Highway 84 has received a higher volume of police complaints.
I tried calling Club Vegas for comment. They weren't open. But they didn't have to be. Their road sign says it all.
"Thanks Lowndes County for cutting our hours and pay without notice; signed staff".
- - - SEE IT FOR YOUR SELF - - -
Below is the link to the full rewritten ordinance as provided by the Lowndes County website.