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Colleseum gets second chance
Colleseum Sports Palace and Grill owner Jodee Carlen and her attorney, Nathaniel Merritt, listen to proceedings during the hearing. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
The Hinesville City Council granted the Colleseum  Sports Palace and Grill a reprieve Thursday during a show cause hearing that lasted nearly four hours. The council did not revoke the Colleseum ’s business or alcohol license, but did demand the club take measures to curb its unruly late Friday night clientele.
Half a dozen Hinesville police officers and a number of Highway 84 business owners testified about shootings and fights in the parking lot, suspected incidents of underage drinking, excess noise and parking issues they’ve experienced when Colleseum  patrons leave the club between 2:30 and 4 a.m. on Saturday mornings.
One restaurant owner said she has even found discarded needles on her property which borders the Colleseum  and has witnessed “sexual activity behind some dumpsters,” presumably patrons from the sports bar.
“We try to be there before they let out,” said Hinesville Police Lt. Thomas Ovitt. “If they (club patrons) see police there they behave a little better.”
Ovitt said he schedules eight to nine officers for the late night shift on Fridays and has had “to dedicate four to five officers at the Colleseum .”
“This is a Friday night problem,” he said. “I have a Wednesday night problem somewhere else.”
Hinesville City Attorney Linnie Darden asked officers to recount specific incidents, including two shootings which occurred in the parking lot of the Colleseum  since it opened in October 2009.
Officers also testified to an incident of aggravated assault against police when one man tried to run two officers down in his truck on Feb. 13. Hinesville police had pursued the man because he had thrown a crate at them. Officers had responded to a fight in the parking lot that night.
Ovitt said the Colleseum ’s owner and security supervisor, Tyrone Adams, seems to do his best to move folks along but added the club’s bouncers need to be more proactive in dispersing crowds. Several of Ovitt’s officers agreed, saying some of the bouncers are too friendly with customers.
“There’s friendly and there’s doing your job,” Corp. Alexander Shirah said.
Shirah also suggested the Colleseum  install metal detectors at the door. Colleseum  owner Jodee Carlen said the staff uses handheld metal detectors at the door as customers enter.
Several officers testified the Colleseum  tends to draw a 20-something crowd. One Hinesville police officer said he arrested a young woman for underage drinking in the club’s parking lot last February. He claimed she was wearing a Colleseum  bracelet at the time.
Adams said he changes the paper bracelets out each night, to prevent underage individuals from entering the Colleseum .
“Our bracelets don’t have the Colleseum  name on them,” he said. “I have them in every color you can imagine and we change them out every night.”
Carlen and Adams were told to provide a CPA accounting report to the city by Oct. 20, detailing their sports bar and grill’s food-to-alcohol sales ratio. They also agreed to erect a privacy fence between their property and the Quality Inn within 60 days and to post signage prohibiting weapons and dancing. The pair also promised to hire off-duty police officers and better train security staff.
Adams and Carlen said they had looked into hiring off-duty police officers but were told the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Hinesville no longer allows the practice. Adams said had contacted Chatham County to hire off-duty officers.
Carlen and Adams said their staff would also look more closely at IDs. Carlen said her staff only accepts drivers’ licenses, military ID cards and state photo IDs.
“I’m willing to work with my neighbors,” Carlen said.” We’ve been trying to do that all along, and if we could get an off-duty police officer it would make all the difference. I try to run a very safe environment. I try to do everything I can.”
City officials instructed Carlen and Adams to offer them a progress report at the next council meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 16.
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