Through a tentative agreed order, a chancery court judge has determined that Club Empire on Timothy Lane in Hattiesburg will remain closed because of several incidents – several of them violent – in recent months and years.
Chancellor Rhea Sheldon on Oct. 14 agreed to the decision, but has not yet signed the order because Club Empire owner Stacey Daniels and his attorney James Dukes did not show up for a scheduled hearing. City Attorney Randy Pope – who was recently authorized by Hattiesburg City Council members to seek an injunction against the club – said the judge will sign the order as soon as all parties can be present.
“The order will grant the injunction permanently, so that there’ll be no more nightclub or club at that spot, so that’s the bottom line,” Pope said. “The judge did not enter the agreed judgment, but said that it was her intention to do that.
“The judge wanted to be sure that they understood – especially Mr. Daniels – exactly what had been agreed to by Mr. Dukes. The temporary restraining order was extended until we can have that conference, where basically (Sheldon) is going to make sure he understands all of the import of that order that has been agreed to by Mr. Dukes.”
Council members voted to declare Club Empire a nuisance during a Sept. 21 executive session, after hearing from members of the Hattiesburg Police Department. With that vote, Pope was approved to file and seek an injunction against the club.
“There was no hearing; it was an announcement made that an agreed order had been entered,” Pope said. “But we want to be sure that (Daniels) understands, because we went through this before – there was an agreed order, and he didn’t follow that agreed order.
“So we don’t want to go through this again; we want to be sure that he understands it.”
As the council does not have the authority to close the club, the matter was required to be determined by a judge.
“The number of incidents Club Empire has had for the last few years – it’s a tremendous number,” council president Carter Carroll said after the vote. “There’s been recent shootings there, and the council just felt like if the owners and the managers weren’t going to provide a safe environment for their patrons, the city needed to take over.”
Council members provided a 4-1 vote on the matter. Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado provided the sole vote against the measure, saying she had insufficient information to make a decision.
Most recently, Daniels – who also was a Hattiesburg mayoral candidate in the recent municipal elections – was arrested and charged in September with three offenses after officials from the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau of Enforcement executed a warrant at his nightclub regarding illegal sales of alcohol.
Pat Daily, the chief of enforcement for the ABC, said undercover ABC agents on Sept. 11 made a buy of alcoholic beverages from inside Club Empire, which has a permit to sell beer but does not have an ABC permit to sell alcoholic beverages. Daniels was arrested and charged with possession of firearm by a felon, possession of a stolen firearm and possession of illegal gambling receipts and currency.
In addition, Corey Austin was charged with possession of alcoholic beverages with intent to sell without permit and possession of alcoholic beverages on a beer-permitted premise. Nakyla Payton was charged with disorderly conduct-failure to comply.
The arrests were made after ABC agents, with the assistance of the Hattiesburg Police Department, served club officials with an arrest warrant that was signed by Forrest County Justice Court Judge Zachary Vaughn.