Brass Key license will not be renewed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 24, 2005

After almost 30 years the Brass Key Club in Eutaw may be closing its doors for good. The Eutaw City Council denied the club, which has been open off and on since the 1960’s, the renewal of its business license Tuesday night. The renewal was denied because of mounting incidents involved with the club. A recent shooting and other complaints throughout the years proved to be the breaking point for the council as they voted unanimously to close the doors for the safety of their citizens.

The city had received a great deal of pressure to consider taking action against the Brass Key because of its location in relation to the Second Baptist Church. The two exist so closely that it was difficult to keep one from having a negative impact on the other. City officials allowed both sides to plead their case at the meeting before they voted on their final decision.

Club owner and former council member Hattie Edwards said she had done her best to make sure the Brass Key did not interfere with the church. Edwards said she operated by the guidelines of the law and tried to take extra steps to cooperate with Second Baptist.

“We told them when their doors were open our doors would be closed,” Edwards said. “I have the utmost respect for the people at Second Baptist Church. I am just asking them not to ask me to stop running my business when I am doing things by the guidelines.”

Edwards acknowledged there were incidents near the club, but said they occurred outside the club. Edwards said she had no control over what people did when they were outside.

“I can’t control what people do when they leave the building,” Edwards said. “We can’t help what people do outside. Inside we follow the law. We don’t mess with the ABC board because they are not people to be messed with.”

City Attorney Mike Smith said whether people were inside or outside the club when violent acts occurred was not an issue. Smith said the problem was the club created an environment where incidents could form.

“It doesn’t make a difference if they are inside or outside,” Smith said. “The duty of the council is to see whether or not it poses a danger.”

Edwards said she was willing to sit down with members of the church and iron out details to keep her business open. She said there were several other areas that posed problems around town and would like to see work done there as well. She added they would like to keep the license so they could host other types of events that were not likely to lead to problems.

“I want to work with the church,” Edwards said. “We need to clean up the community as a whole. There is an ABC store down the road where people fight too.

I would like to see the council work with me to find some positive ways to use the building like baby showers of Mary Kay parties. I intend to work with the council in any way I can.”

The greatest tensions in the Brass Key argument have risen from people who visit the club parking in the Second Baptist Churches parking lot. At times, members of the church would arrive Sunday morning only to find beer cans and other trash littering their parking area.

Mitch Brown, pastor of Second Baptist Church, said the church members are tired of showing up to find a mess in their parking lot. Brown also said he was worried about the community because it was only a matter of time before there is an incident at the club with deadly consequences.

“The situation speaks for itself,” Brown said. “I speak for the entire congregation when I say it seems like every time the doors are open something happens. Our parking lot is being littered and we have to come in and see that. It seems to be getting worse and we have to be accountable for what is gong on in our community.”

Brown said action needed to be taken quickly to avoid a nasty incident.

“It is a time bomb waiting to explode,” Brown said. “If something isn’t done something bad is going to happen. Bullets don’t have a name on them. They can hit anyone.”

After hearing both arguments Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele responded he and the other members of the council were concerned about the safety of the people they serve and a positive image for the city. Steele said the problems at the Brass Key made it difficult to ensure either.

“We want our community free of the incidents that happen at the Brass Key,” Steele said. “The reasons police are going down there do not reflect a positive environment. We do not want the city put in a situation where they face a danger.”

Steele said the council appreciated all the businesses in the city that serve the people of Eutaw. He said it was never their intention to hurt anyone that was trying to run a successful venture. Steele said they had to consider the people they represent first.

“We do not want to hurt any business providing a safe service to the community,” Steele said. “We are here to look out for the people we represent and when we look at the complaints we receive we have no other choice, but to give this matter a serious look and see if the license should be renewed.”

The arguments against the club were more than enough to convince the council it was a danger. Whether the club will open again remains to be seen. As for now, the doors will be closed.