NORFOLK, Va. — The City of Norfolk will now hold downtown businesses accountable for violence that stems from their establishment and continues outside.
Several business owners along Granby Street would not speak on camera, but told News 3 they should be held accountable, especially for alcohol. Other owners say they feel like they’re being scrutinized for the wrong reasons.
All business owners, from cafes to restaurants to clubs, will have to explain why they should be allowed to stay open.
Baxter Simmons, owner of Baxter’s, a lounge bar on Granby Street, disagrees with this part of the new plan.
“We’ve been here 18 years without any problems, so for me it’s quite difficult to go and explain myself,” Simmons said.
The last effort is aimed at suppressing crime. It comes after police said Tyshawn Gray, 25, from Norfolk, fired into a crowd as he left Legacy nightclub on E. Plume Street early Friday morning. They say he injured four people, including the sheriff’s deputy on duty.
Norfolk City Manager Dr Chip Filer did not mince words on Friday hours after the mass shooting. He said many shootings were happening inside bars late at night as they closed.
He now wants to empower them.
“It’s not about picking on everyone,” Filer said. “It’s not about shutting everyone down. It’s about providing people with a very clear path on how they envision being good corporate citizens to enhance the drive, energy and activity happening in our downtown neighborhood.”
Filer said the city would immediately begin investigating the operation of businesses downtown and assessing their permits.
Aaliyah Lyons, senior manager of Urban Ice on Granby Street, says the problem isn’t always with landlords.
“I feel like it doesn’t really hold them accountable, it just blames them,” she said. “It pushes the prerogative that it’s their fault as if they’re letting it happen.”
The city has taken many steps to try to reduce downtown violence, including adding cameras, increasing police presence and enforcing code violations.
Although Filer said some of these measures helped, it didn’t stop potential criminals.
Simmons said he understands why the city is stepping down. He said he trained security to prevent things from getting out of control, but added that sometimes it was just beyond their control.
“It’s not about overserving [alcohol] all the time,” Simmons said. “Some of the people who just come down, I hate to say it, sometimes aren’t good people and you can’t tell when someone walks through your door.”
The city has not given a timeline for when it expects business owners to have a discussion with them.
In the meantime, city leaders say they are also considering the option of implementing a curfew.