PRATTVILLE — The Prattville police chief has had enough and he wants to close down a local business, unless the owner makes changes.
Bama Lanes operates The Blue Iguana, a bar adjacent to the bowling alley, in the 1700 block of East Main Street. There is a common door between the businesses. At issue is the type of liquor license the Blue Iguana operates under and what Police Chief Mark Thompson calls an increasing number of calls to the businesses. There have been two shootings within three weeks in the parking lot of the businesses.
On July 17, a person fired several shots in the parking lot, but no one was injured. No arrest has been made in that case. On Aug. 6, a man received life-threatening injuries after being shot by his brother in the parking lot. The brother was arrested and charged with assault.
“We’re seeing more and more calls for service up there,” Thompson said. In 2019 more than 200 calls were received, ranging from citizen assist calls to harassment to fights and assaults, the chief said
“It’s getting to the point where some innocent bystander is going to get hurt,” Thompson said.
The two businesses are owned by Steve Landers, who says they total a $4 million investment and provide 35 jobs. He doesn’t agree with the increased law enforcement calls argument.
“Most of those calls were in the parking lot, not inside either of the businesses,” he said. “We can’t control what goes on in the parking lot.”
The parking lot serves a shopping center with restaurants, a furniture store, auto parts store and other businesses.
The Blue Iguana has a restaurant liquor license, as does Bama Lanes. The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issues liquor licenses in the state. Thompson wants to see The Blue Iguana apply for a lounge liquor license.
ABC regulations hold that there is no age limit for customers in a business with a restaurant liquor license, but patrons have to be 21 or older to go into a business with a lounge liquor license.
The Blue Iguana has become a hot spot in the local music scene. It hosts shows that bring in large crowds.
“The bowling alley is a more family friendly type business,” Thompson said. “If you want to bowl and drink a beer, that’s fine. The restaurant license covers that. But The Blue Iguana is a straight-up bar. It needs a lounge license.
“We need to have adults only in the bar. And the two buildings need to be separate. You shouldn’t be able to go from the Blue Iguana directly into the bowling alley.”
Landers says he has security in The Blue Iguana that keeps customers from accessing the bowling alley and vice-versa directly. Patrons have to go outside if they want to go into the other business.
“I’ve asked the police department to allow me to hire off duty officers to park outside,” Landers said. “We don’t want them inside the lounge. But if they park the parking lot that would prevent a lot of the problems the chief said are happening around our businesses and it would help the other businesses as well.
“I own the bowling alley in Montgomery and we hire off duty officers and have no problems.”
The Montgomery Police Department stopped handing out bar and nightclub security shifts to off-duty officers earlier this year after discovering that its insurance didn’t cover injuries sustained while working those shifts.
Prattville PD policies allow off duty officers to work security jobs, but bans off duty officers from working at businesses that serve alcohol. It’s a liability concern, the chief said.
Landers also said that locking the common door would be a fire code violation. Thompson said he discussed the matter with the fire department and it would not be a fire code violation.
Landers said he would consider applying for a lounge liquor license for the bar, but would have to get cooperation from the city.
“Six or seven years ago, we were dealing with this same problem,” Landers said. “I paid to apply for a lounge license, but then came down here before another council and was told they didn’t want a lounge license in Prattville.
“Somethings got to give. You can’t say apply for this license and then say, we don’t want you to have this license.”
The problem can be hashed out, said Council President Jerry Starnes, who chairs the police committee.
“We don’t want to close the bowling alley, but we need to address the license issue at The Blue Iguana,” he said. “I think we can work out a compromise.”
The matter will be the subject of a public hearing at 6 p.m. before the City Council meeting set for Sept. 7.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected].