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Three clubs face show cause hearings
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It isn’t easy operating a bar in Savannah these days.

Three establishments are being asked to show cause why their applications for liquor, beer and wine licenses or their applications should not be denied. If they can’t do it, the Savannah City Council can suspend or even revoke each of the club’s licenses.

The latest club up for a closer look is Sweet Melissa’s, a Whitaker Street restaurant that has requested a liquor, beer and wine license at its new location. An administrative review was held with the applicant.

Sweet Melissa’s sells food, including pizza, past the closing time for bars, one of the few restaurants in Savannah to stay open so late. City Manager Michael Brown said the problem at Sweet Melissa’s is overcrowding, which city officials have said constitutes “a nuisance requiring an unusual amount of police activity.”

Also under the gun is the Wild Wing Cafe, a popular restaurant and bar in City Market that has been cited by both the city and state for serving alcohol to minors. Wild Wing has been cited three times since October 2007.

The Tiger’s Den, located on Skidaway Road, also could lose its license after police discovered drug sales were taking place inside the bar. All three clubs will have show cause hearings to explain what security steps, training or other actions are being taken to remedy the problems.

Failure to comply could mean outright revocation of liquor licenses, mere warnings or fines. Alderman Tony Thomas advised caution in handling the complaint about Sweet Melissa’s, noting that another establishment across the street from the club –– the Lady and Sons –– also gets large crowds.

“Nobody is saying anything against the big crowds at Lady and Sons,” Thomas said. “The tour buses stop there. I think we need to be really cautious if we try to label somebody a nuisance.”

Brown said the difference between the two businesses is in size. “The question is once you get inside Lady and Sons, it’s a large establishment,” he said.

“Sweet Melissa’s also has a downstairs,” Thomas replied, adding that the restaurant is doing a public service. “There is no downtown food at night,” he said. “When the bars are putting people out at 3am, there is no place (but Sweet Melissa’s) for them to go and eat.”

A show cause hearing had been set for the Wild Wing Cafe at the council’s Feb. 26 meeting, but an attorney representing the business had asked for a continuance until March 12. Council members weren’t happy about the request, but did grant it. “We want to be assured there are no further delays on this hearing,” Alderwoman Mary Osborne said.

Alderman Van Johnson also was concerned about possible delays. “We should send them a letter and say be there or be square,” he said.

Osborne asked if the owners and management at the Tiger’s Den were responsible if someone did a drug transaction in the establishment, even if they were unaware of it.

“Absolutely,” Brown replied. “That’s going to be the central essence in this case. Were the drug trades in and adjacent to the property? What did they do to preclude this? How did it happen? We’re trying to get that on the table.”

The council meeting was very short, but the March 12 meeting is expected to be very long. “We can just suck it up and do what needs to be done on March 12,” Mayor Otis Johnson said. cs