Here is a story that should be covered by the local media outlets in the area, but it won't be because of the context of the subject matter. I don't really think it is a controversial matter, except for the fact that the City of Hickory is doing everything above and beyond its power to shut down a long time local business establishment.
I believe that this story starts two years ago in the early morning hours of January 11, 2008. The story according to WSOC-TV in Charlotte. Buckey Bolden is accused of firing shots into a sport utility vehicle in a city parking lot behind Randolph’s Billiards around 2 a.m. Friday. Police said the two men inside managed to drive to the hospital just blocks away, but the passenger, 21-year-old Ben Thompson, died and the driver, George Hill Jr., is in critical condition. Two women were also injured in the incident but they were not shot. Investigators said they believe the shooting stemmed from an incident inside the pool hall.
Buckey Ray Bolden is still awaiting trial in the Catawba County Detention Facility under multiple counts including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of stolen goods, trafficking in cocaine, and murder.
But here is where the story that I want to relate to you begins. An employee with Randolph's contacted me on April 2, 2010. This person had read the various articles that I had posted relating to the Drinking Ordinance and preceding moratorium that was passed last year. It was related to me that the Hickory Police Department was trying to shut Randolph's down.
I was asked to help find a reference to an article from a couple of years ago that had appeared in the Hickory Daily Record. The article was written in relation to police calls for service to local "Drinking Establishments." This Person remembered "Thee Playhouse" as the number one offender and that is about all they remembered. If anyone can help to find that article, please pass the information on to me so that it can be relayed.
When Yesterday's shut down, Randolph's received an influx of different clientele. They spent $64,000 last year alone in added security. They tried to hire off duty Hickory Police Department Officers and they refused. Randolph's Management contacted the Narcotics Division repeatedly about bringing in undercover officers and they spent $4,000 on a camera system and when they caught people looking to sell drugs, on camera, they posted their pictures with big red letters DRUG DEALER and banned them.
They tightened up the dress code and things were going really well. It was related to me that they really do not have as many problems as the public seems to think. Back in August, a Lieutenant with the Hickory Police Department came in and told Randolph's Management that the Restaurant/Quasi-Bar "127 North" was going to be shut down and they were assuming "that crowd that hangs out there" would be coming Randolph's way. If Randolph's had any problems, Randolph's should contact law enforcement and together they would devise a plan to neutralize any problems.
Two weeks later Randolph's met with ALE and HPD. Randolph's was told to call HPD with the problems related to not being able to get the people to leave the City parking lot at the rear of Randolph's. Randolph's management even suggested shutting down the parking lot, because not many of their customers even park there. "That parking lot just turns into one big block party and Randolph's knows they do not have the authority to make people leave a public parking lot."
Randolph's has been around for over 20 years and they have never really had that many problems other than the notorious incident from two years ago. They have not received tickets from ALE and they do everything they are supposed to do.
The management of Randolph's has been under a great deal of stress, because they could possibly lose everything. They have around 30 employees and some of these people are struggling to support their families in this economy. Trying to save everything for everybody is starting to take its toll!
When the case went to trial on April 10th, after the HPD rested their case, Randolph's lawyer made a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the City of Hickory had not proven their case. Judge Beecher Gray agreed. After some debate, the judge basically told the City that Randolph's would be getting their permits back and the city could either compromise with Randolph's and work with them to help solve the problems they were having or not. The City's representatives agreed to talk to the City Manager on Monday (April 13th) about helping Randolph's with the City parking lot which is the whole basis of the problem. Randolph's turns them away for what ever reason and then the people congregate in the lot and refuse to leave. Randolph's does not have the authority to make them leave since it is Public property. HPD tried to say it was Randolph's responsibility to clear the lot since some of them were their patrons.
Randolph's has waited patiently for 3 months and played by the City's rules. They have not filed an injunction because they want to get along with the city and they worry about repercussions in the future. Going into summer time, business slows down for an establishment such as Randolph's. People would rather go to the lake or grill out than be indoors playing pool. Even when they do re-obtain their permits, it will take a long time to recoup the losses they have incurred.
As of Monday afternoon, Randolph's has not received their permits. The Hickory Police Department contacted Randolph's lawyer Friday afternoon and agreed to meet with them on the compromises. Randolph's management feels that they won in court, but the victory has been short-lived. They feel that they are at the mercy of HPD and how far they want to drag this out. Randolph's management is fed up with the City stalling and what appears to be back door politics. They have played by the rules the entire time to no avail and they feel like the rules don't matter anymore.
The Hound loves saying I told you so and guess what "I Told you so." The city is upset by the stigma that came along with that murder two years ago. The man sitting in the detention center is allegedly involved in cocaine. The City apparently has a notion that there is some sort of trafficking taking place at Randolph's and my belief is they think they are going to put a dent in the trafficking by coming down hard on Randolph's.
But folks, they are wrong. Drugs are prevalent throughout this community, and like the innuendo suggests above, people will flow from bar to bar and the problems are going to tag along with them. What is even more ludicrous is the number of bars that masquerade as restaurants. A couple of these establishments reside right there on Union Square. Go to these places in the evening and see how many people are eating versus how many are there to drink. And let's be honest about whether those places have the same problems as Randolph's, because we know that they do.
It's a really stupid argument to suggest that Randolph's has the obligation or authority to do anything with the City Parking lot. After all, it is city property and therefore it is the City's responsibility to police their own lot. Theoretically, Randolph's could abuse their supposed authority. Could a Randolph's bouncer make people leave City Hall, Neill Clark Recreation Center, Jaycee Park, or any other City property? How far does their authority go? Can they use tazers, mace, or guns to get rid of the trespassers? If a Randolph's bouncer shoots someone in the parking lot, who has liability, Randolphs only or would the City become responsible?
That parking lot is used by patrons of the Cabaret , The Cell Block (formerly "Union Cellar"), the Tap Room, Josh's, Table 220, McGuire's and anything else around that area. People go bar hopping to all of these establishments. Is the city going to drop the hammer on these places at some point in time?
When I was younger, I used to go to Randolph's with friends to hang out and I never saw or had any problems. If there are any problems with Randolph's, it is probably related to this city in general. This city has an edge to it now. It is getting rougher. That is what happens when you have a real unemployment rate of over 20%. Combine people looking for a method of escape and people looking to make money and you will have an environment where drugs will thrive. The more dynamic the above variables are, the more dynamic the problem will be.
If we suspended search and seizure laws (and I am not suggesting we do) and went into local Bar/Restaurants, I believe that you would find as many drugs available at these establishments as you find at a Randolph's. There are always issues of underage people trying to drink. That is as American as Apple Pie. I believe that Randolph's is properly securing their premises. I don't think the City is properly securing theirs. Should we shut down the city? (HaHa!)
As was addressed by this blog last year, we are a nation of laws and not of men. One of Hickory's problems has been that certain chosen people get their way and the rest of us are told "tough." There are certain people in this community who have gotten away with a lot of stuff because of their last names. Are the leaders of this community smart enough to see that might be a big reason why this community has fallen so far. If you were a person from outside of this community, would you want to come here and play the games we have seen displayed time and time again?
People's livelihoods are at stake here. Does the owner of Randolph's deserve to lose his investment? Do his employees deserve to lose their livelihood? Is this the way that we want to treat a business establishment in Hickory? Can we afford to do this to local businesses? Do our city leaders believe in justice for all? What if they set their sights on your business next?
The Hickory Daily Record ran the article about Randolph's permits being taken and patrons assumed they were closed, so the place has been deserted. Hopefully, when Randolph's gets their permits back, the Record will write an article about what has occurred here to let people know that Randolph's is back in business 100%.