After hearing from members of the Hattiesburg Police Department during a Sept. 21 executive session, Hattiesburg City Council members have voted to declare as nuisances Club Empire and Roper’s Rockin Country because of repeated incidents – several of them violent – at the two establishments.
With that vote, City Attorney Randy Pope has been approved to file and seek an injunction against the clubs. As the council does not have the authority to close the clubs – or in the matter of Roper’s, which closed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, keep one closed – that matter will 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. “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 Club Empire and Roper’s. Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado provided the sole vote against both measures, saying she had insufficient information to make a decision.
“Right before (Roper’s) closed, there were lots of incidents there,” Carroll said. “We were having lots of complaints and lots of problems there, so we are looking to keep them from reopening, so we declared that a nuisance as well.
“It’s not the exact same situation as Club Empire, because they are active. Roper’s is looking to reopen the nightclub part. It’s a similar situation in that we declared it a nuisance because of their past history, but I think the court will look at those as completely different things.”
The matter was brought to the council’s attention by Ward 4 Councilman Dave Ware. Pope said he hopes to bring the issues to court sooner rather than later.
“It’s just a matter of getting the stuff ready to take to the judge,” he said. “It’ll be a little while, but it won’t be very long.
“The court will make the final decision, but this is what we’re going to seek.”
Most recently, Stacey Daniels – the owner of Club Empire and a Hattiesburg mayoral candidate in the recent municipal elections – was arrested and charged this month 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.
Club Empire is located at 811 Timothy Lane; Roper’s Rockin Country is located at 6428 U.S. 49.