VOL. 132 | NO. 104 | Thursday, May 25, 2017
Judge Rules Senses Can Remain Open While Reapplying for Permit
By Patrick Lantrip
Senses, the Poplar Avenue nightclub that found itself in the midst of zoning dispute, will be allowed to remain open for business while the owners and the county sort out the zoning issues.
Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter ruled Wednesday, May 24, the business could remain open, but with some stipulations.
The stipulations require the club to have 15 security guards on site during the hours of operations to keep the peace. Also, customers who park their car in the neighborhood and walk to the club are not to be permitted. And Senses will be required to file for another special use permit within 60 to 90 days.
“I’m also requiring that the county must accept that permit as any other permit,” Potter said. “The court does not mandate that the county has to issue the permit, only that the county accept it and go through the permit process as is required. The court wants that process to be followed by the county and the defendant.”
The last stipulation Potter applied is that the club is not to exceed 700 patrons at any time or it will be shut down.
Potter said Senses’ owner, Francisco DaSilva, and his attorney, Lanier Fogg, already have done some things the court is pleased with, including contracting with another party to park overflow vehicles and reducing the number of patrons permitted in the club from 1,000 to 700. However, it was a seemingly contradictory pair of letters from the Office of Construction Code Enforcement that caused the court to rule in DaSilva’s favor.
The first letter from code enforcement presented in court stated no code violations had been found at the address and that the property was awarded a certificate of occupancy.
This letter, in turn, prompted DaSilva to undergo substantial renovations.
But he received a second letter a few months later notifying him he needed a special use permit to operate as a nightclub.
Potter said the two letters, taken together, were critical to his ruling.
The case will appear back in Potter’s courtroom on Aug. 21; however, if the defendant does not adhere to the conditions established by the court during that timeframe, the county can apply for an advanced hearing to close the business.
After the ruling, DaSilva apologized to the court for breaking the law, but he added that he felt he had no other option in order to get his case heard in a timely manner.
“I hope honestly that this works out so that you will have a flourishing business there, and I also hope that the problems the neighborhood had with a previous owner don’t rear their head,” Potter told DaSilva.
Following the case, Fogg said that given the unique nature of the case, Potter’s ruling was fair.
“What is particularly concerning in this case is why there is such a human cry in regards to what has occurred,” he said. “Considering that just south of Mr. DaSilva’s business on the other side of Poplar where the Wendy’s and the little shopping center is – all of that is zoned for nightclubs, which is far closer to the neighborhood than Senses.”