Gay Issues

Mississippi Gay Bar O'Haras Denied Special Exception Permit

| by Emily Smith
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A Memphis business owner and former owner of a popular gay bar in Shannon was denied a request to reopen the business after a 4-1 vote at the town’s June 4 board meeting.

“It was something I wanted to do for the gay community here,” said P.J Newton, the Shannon businesswoman. “They really have no place to go and while some places may be ‘gay friendly,’ no one really feels comfortable if they want to kiss their partner or dance together.”

According to DJ Journal, after many of the town’s residents approached Newton, she decided to lease the old building and reopen the bar. An inspector serviced the building so the bar would meet building codes, and after it met standards, Newton applied for a special exception permit to serve alcohol.

The city board voted against the permit arguing that it had concerns for the town’s general welfare, traffic congestion and public need.

Carl Trice, one board member who voted against the permit, said he had considered residential concern. At the public meeting concerning Newton’s permit, 23 residents attended with a petition including 200 signatures objecting to the bar’s opening.

According to Newton, residents objected only to a bar opening in the area, not its gay audience.

Police Chief Desiree Kirshner said the town has experienced past troubles with bars, mostly because residents of neighboring towns filter into late night Shannon bars after other bars close. Now that Shannon bars close at midnight, however, Kirshner said most of the trouble has died down.

“Please don’t associate me with previous owners’ problems,” Newton said. “This is a new business and I want to operate it within the parameters of the law.”

Newton plans to appeal her denial.

Sources: DJ Journal,