This past Thursday, Savannah’s City Council was unusually productive. They somehow managed to A) flush a wonderful opportunity down the toilet, B) expose themselves as spineless, and C) flip the collective bird to most of the responsible bar, tavern and nightclub owners in town.
And all this before they even cast their votes. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
I’m referring of course to the supremely cowardly maneuver of approving a liquor license for the new Indian Street location of Frozen Paradise — a location that was until just recently home to Club Oz.
For those of you who never venture into Historic Downtown’s so-called “entertainment zone” after dark: both of these establishments have been something of a bane on this area for years now. I hate to come across as overly judgemental, but facts are facts, and just because everyone else seems to have blinders on and a gag in their mouth doesn’t mean I have to.
Frozen and Oz (which appear to have shared owners and management in the past, and still enjoy a cozy relationship) have a well-deserved rep as two of the roughest, most off-putting bars in town.
Between the two businesses, they’ve regularly racked up more than their fair share of police calls due to violent, aggressive behavior both on their premises and surrounding public and private property. By design, their clientele is primarily young and black (or “urban” if you must insulate yourself even further from reality), which is not a problem whatsoever.
The problem is the thugs.
Thug culture —and its dear friend gang culture— is color-blind, and in Savannah we most definitely have our share of thuggish, antagonistic, macho sociopaths of all skin tones who enjoy hardcore gangsta rap, drug-running and verbal and physical intimidation as a means of sadly stunted sexual posturing. The number of downtown residents and visitors who’ve been forced to endure threatening, anti-social behavior at the hands of many of these bars’ regular patrons is astonishingly high.
A while back, a friend (who is white) decided he’d check out Frozen just to see what all the fuss was about. As he approached, ID out, an off-duty SPD officer (hired as club security) stopped him, saying, “I can’t guarantee your safety in there.”
Now, sadly, racism is nothing new to Savannah. In fact, many here on both sides of the proverbial “color line” have damn near perfected the art of acting like it doesn’t exist when it benefits them to do so, and crying foul when it behooves them.
Whether they’ll ever cop to it or not, the folks on that dais in City Hall are scared witless of appearing to come down on a black-owned business for what many whites (and blacks) perceive as a “black problem.” They desperately want to avoid dealing with the handful of clumsy, self-appointed “Rev. Al Juniors” who lie in wait, ready to pounce on our elected leaders in front of the cameras for (supposedly) screwing over a minority citizen where they’d otherwise let whitey slide.
Ideally, both clubs should have had their privilege to pour alcohol revoked ages ago for the myriad of problems caused by their lack of interest in controlling their rowdier, more vandalistic clientele.
Instead, the City spent enormous sums of money to block off large swaths of Broughton Street on weekend nights, diverting precious crime-fighting manpower to serve as crowd control, all in a shameful effort to make sure that passersby were not routinely harassed and/or assaulted by hopped-up wannabe gangstas flowing from that club, looking to impress.
Now, Frozen Paradise is allowed to shift its operations to the Oz location and —it appears— Oz will be allowed to move into the recently vacated Club Ice on Abercorn, once known as one of the best places in town to get shot and/or stabbed.
Instead of using the powers it has to simply refuse or revoke the license for this obvious blight on our nightlife, Council opted instead to approve the license, but add to it a set of ten ludicrous stipulations Alderwoman Edna Jackson hopes will soon be adopted for all bars in the city.
Those stipulations include such humdingers as “keeping minors out” (a law they’re already required to abide by) and “making the club owner available to talk to neighboring businesses to discuss problems.” Forcing Frozen’s owners to chat with the very neighbors who pleaded with Council to deny the license is a real hoot.
I’ve watched firsthand how the owners of these two establishments nonsensically berate the Council with demands of special privilege. To think Otis and his crew would impose such a fate on innocent bystanders smacks of outright malice.
“We are putting some restrictions on these folk, and if we are going to do this, we have to do it for everybody,” the Mayor said Thursday. I would tend to agree.
The only problem is you never should have done it in the first place. You should have just shut ‘em down and wiped your hands of the whole mess.
To paraphrase the great Rudy Ray Moore (with apologies to Ms. Jackson and Mary Osborne): Council members, where are your balls at?
Jim Reed is music editor of Connect Savannah. To comment e-mail us at