Possible club ordinance outlined

By M. Robert Berg

The DeKalb City Council outlined regulations for a possible ordinance concerning teen clubs in DeKalb last night, and also attacked a Northern Star editorial accusing the council of trying to “drive the juice bar out of town.”

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas listed the concerns raised by the public over the operation of Phat City, a non-alcoholic teen club that was open on Fourth Street until a week ago.

“The concerns are the lack of age restrictions and the resulting mix of minors and adults of all ages, the lack of any closing regulations, the lack of any license obligations, the lack of seating and occupancy requirements and the lack of a clear definition of the proprietor’s responsibility with respect to restaurant and bar taxes,” Nicklas said.

The council voted to direct the city staff to work with City Attorney Ron Matekaitis’ suggestions for an ordinance.

In a memo to Nicklas, Matekaitis outlined a plan for consideration.

“A person seeking to establish a teen or dance club would have to apply for and receive a license to operate,” Matekaitis stated. “They would have to apply for either a 14-to-17 license or an 18-and-over license.”

As far as closing times, Matekaitis recommended a different time for each license category. Teen clubs serving people 14 to 17 years old would close a half hour before curfew, while the 18 and over clubs would close the same time as the bars, he stated.

As far as seating, Matekaitis proposed requiring seating for 50 percent of the maximum occupancy.

“I think (Matekaitis’ suggestions) are excellent,” said 4th Ward Ald. Rita Tewksbury. “There might be one or two things that come up later, but he covered what we want.”

An ordinance could be drafted as early as the next regular council meeting, putting together a package based on Matekaitis’ memo.

The council also spoke out against a story and editorial in Monday’s Star. The story contained quotes from co-owner of Phat City, Burdett Griffin, while the editorial questioned the council’s actions concerning the club.

“The article and editorial in the Northern Star today suggested that the council has a vendetta against this juice bar,” said 6th Ward Ald. Brad Strauss. “That’s not the case.”

Strauss said the situation required action by the council, and is not out of the ordinary. “We have an establishment geared toward young people, and if there’s no regulations, there’s going to be problems,” he said. “These are regulations for all juice bars—we’re not targeting a particular business.”

Seventh Ward Ald. Jordan Kagan agreed with Strauss about the Star’s editorial. “The issue is brought up, and we have to deal with it,” Kagan said.

Strauss pointed out after the meeting the fact the owners of Phat City do not show up at council meetings dealing with teen clubs to defend themselves. “Notice that they’re not here tonight,” he said.

Kagan also pointed out the efforts of the Downtown DeKalb Association to contact the owners. “Allyn Davenport of the Downtown DeKalb Association tried to contact them repeatedly with no success,” he said, referring to problems people have had contacting the owners.

“A person seeking to establish a teen or dance club would have to apply for and receive a license to operate. They would have to apply for either a 14 to 17 license or an 18 and over license.