Mayor Apologizes as “Stage on Bay” Approved for Liquor License

The third time apparently was the charm for a Savannah concert venue looking to serve alcohol during their shows.

The Stage on Bay was officially approved for an alcohol license by a 7-2 vote of the Savannah City Council.

The concert venue had come under fire from neighbors who say they didn’t want or need another bar near their homes.

No members of the community were allowed to talk at Thursday’s alcohol license hearing.

But the councilpeople themselves had a lot to say before the second vote on the issue was ever cast.

“This man, this operator and his employees have a responsibility to abide by the rules, to do what’s right based on the zoning that they have,” explained Alderman Tony Thomas. “And to make sure they don’t become a nuisance or create additional problems for that neighborhood.”

It was clear, the Council wanted to make sure the people running The Stage on Bay got the message, we may be voting for you to serve alcohol, but you better do it by the law.

“I am not going to give you my task of approval on this application unless you know if you come back up here for any violations, you’ve got problems,” explained a defiant John Hall.

The West Savannah concert venue came under fire from resident who say there are already too many bars in their neighborhood.

But after two meetings, two votes, a threatened multi-million dollar lawsuit, the determination was made that the alcohol license application was valid.

That left the Council resigned to the fact they had to vote “yes”.

“I want to apologize to all the citizens that live in the West Savannah area,” said Mayor Eddie DeLoach. “At this time your Government has failed you to make sure you were protected. We apologize for that. We are working feverishly to make that better moving forward. but under the circumstances we’ve got, we feel obligated to do what we have to do because it is the law and we have to follow the law.”

The club’s CEO Charles Schmitt says following that law won’t be a problem.

“I wish there would be a presumption that you would be a good operator before there is an assumption you were going to be a bad operator,” said Charles Schmitt. “We have operated venues like this in the past, we know what we are doing. We more than anyone else want a safe, secure, reputable environment for our patrons.”

Neighborhood President Ronald Williams says folks will be there to help keep the peace.

“There will be a watchdog group out there to make sure things are run right and for the safety of the community,” said Williams. “We aren’t just concerned about the safety and welfare of the community but the safety and welfare of his patrons.”

The fighting may not be over yet. Schmitt’s attorney still wants the City to pay for the $140,000-150,000 in bills, and lost money from cancelled or relocated shows so far.

“Doesn’t change the fact that for six long weeks my client has been paying his rent paying his employees, has had to cancel and move shows and has sustained a substancial amount of damage,” said Will Claiborne. “We will still be seeking those damages from the city.”

After this vote, council made another, putting a moratorium on any more alcohol licenses in West Savannah.

The Stage on Bay will be serving alcohol at their second “Grand Opening” on St Patrick’s Day night.

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Its a second chance for a Savannah concert venue.

“The Stage on Bay” will be back in front of Savannah City Council to make another request for a liquor license March 2.

The club was denied a liquor license at the last Council meeting after neighbors objected, saying there were too many alcohol; establishments in the area already.

Alderman John Hall made the motion Thursday, just one week after the city was threatened with a multi-million dollar lawsuit by the club’s owner.

“This Council cannot be obstinate,” said Hall. “Being obstinate a few years ago cost us millions.”

The owner and neighbors who live near the venue will both be able to address Council at their March 2nd meeting.

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West Savannah — WSAV

Some people who live in one West Savannah neighborhood were opposed to The Stage on Bay music venue opening so close to their homes.

Thursday night, The Savannah City Council agreed the business was not a good fit and denied the business owner’s liquor license.  The owner, Charles Schmitt says he did everything to follow the rules when applying for the license including checking the zoning and ordering a traffic study.  But, still he was denied.  And he says the council gave him no legal reason for rejecting his license, so now, he’s planning to sue the city.

Schmitt says he put half a million dollars into opening the facility and now, he has nothing left.

“We’re financially decimated, it’s taken everything we have, there’s no more money,” says Charles Schmitt, CEO of The Stage on Bay.

“We don’t need any more crime in this community, and it’s gonna overflow, disturbing the seniors and everybody else in the community,” says Ronald Williams, President of the Neighborhood Association.

Councilman Van Johnson says Schmitt did not have a Certificate of Occupancy and also didn’t have legitimate parking.

The Marshall Tucker Band was supposed to perform at the venue, but the concert had to be moved to the Lucas Theater.

 

 

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