Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Mayor Frank Melton announced Sept. 9 that the emergency curfew issued for the city of Jackson—a curfew that some city officials called "unenforceable"—in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina had been lifted, ending days of businesses closing prematurely and perhaps unnecessarily.
The general city curfew for people under 18 still stands, with minors not allowed on the streets from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Businesses reacted differently to the emergency curfew. Old Navy on County Line Road closed its doors at 7 p.m. during the days of the curfew, for the sake of their employees.
"We had people who work here who work in different areas, like around Ridgeland, so we tried to find a time that was conducive to everyone," said Terry Carter, manager at Old Navy. Carter would not comment on how the temporary hours affected business.
Patty Andrews, co-owner of W.C. Don's, said the curfew hardly impacted business.
Left Field Sports Grill, which holds hours from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., however, was "destroyed," according to Assistant General Manager Nick Barrack.
"Our crowd doesn't usually come out until 10:30, so it hit us pretty hard. Everybody was freaked out about the gas lines, and the loss of power and the destruction, but I think the curfew just kind of topped it off. You're sending money home to those who need it, and you're sitting in line to get gas when you can get it, and then you hear the word 'curfew' and you're like 'dammit,'" Barrack says. He reported doing about 20 percent of normal business on peak days Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Club owners eventually wrote off the week as a loss and handed the facility over to the Red Cross, which prepared 2,000 meals a day.
Police Chief Shirlene Anderson said this week that the curfew was stringently enforced on businesses, but City Public Information Officer Nash Nunnery told the JFP on Sept. 2*, on her behalf, that the curfew is "unenforceable," both for businesses and individuals. "It's more of a request than an enforceable curfew," he said. "I seriously doubt somebody is going to get arrested because a business is open past midnight."
The curfew against individuals is "unenforceable" as well, he said. "Nobody is going to be picked up because they're out and about. How can you distinguish between emergency workers and other people?"
But local businesses are still reporting curfew crackdowns. "The one night we stayed open, the cops showed up at the door at 12:15, escorting people out. Oh, they enforced it, alright. They knocked on the door. We had everybody tabbed out at midnight, but we were letting them sit off their drink or whatever. Then the cops came in and told them they'd have to leave or they'd go to jail," said Barrack. "Headliners got the same thing at 11:45 that same night."
Headliners General Manager Eric Hidorn said he doesn't begrudge Melton for invoking the emergency curfew.
"None of my staff made any money. I walked around with a frown on my face because it just sucks running a business that's not doing well. Everything was depressing with the destruction down South and there were more people in the gas line down the street than there was in my club," Hidorn said. "But I'm not mad at Melton for that. As a family man who lives in the area, I'm glad he did it."
Barrack said he felt the mayoral administration may have been overreacting, however.
"I don't think the curfew was really necessary. I think it was more Melton freaking out thinking stuff was going to happen that didn't," Barrack said.
* CORRECTION: The date Sept. 9 in the print edition was incorrect. Nash Nunnery told the Jackson Free Press on Sept. 2 that Chief Shirlene Anderson had just told him that neither the individual (adult) curfew or the one against businesses was enforceable. But police threatened businesses under that curfew throughout the next week. The date has been corrected in the text above.