Poplarville aldermen adopt new pool hall ordinance

Published 2:24 pm Thursday, May 3, 2012

Currently, if you are under 18, you can’t frequent an establishment in this town defined as a pool or billiard hall.

In about 30 days, that age limit will drop to 16, under a new ordinance adopted by the board of aldermen on Tuesday. By a 4-to-1 vote, aldermen adopted an ordinance that will lower the age limit from 18 to 16, the same age at which a state driver’s license can be obtained.

Alderman Bill Winborn voted no on passage of the ordinance, saying he believed the board was “overreacting” to a controversy concerning what has been termed a pool hall, or game room, depending on to whom you talk.

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Voting for the new ordinance, researched and drafted by city attorney Martin Travis Smith, were aldermen Byron Wells, Johnny Sherman, Dr. John Grant, Jr., and Shirley Wiltshire. Smith told the board that the ordinance would be advertised in a local newspaper and would take effect in about 30 days.

Until then, the state law, which says no one under 18 can frequent what is defined as a pool hall, will apply in Poplarville. Smith told the board on April 17 that a state law setting the age limit at 18 applies inside the city, but that the same law allows the board to reduce the age limit, if it wants to.

The board told Smith to research the law further and draft a new ordinance, reducing the age limit to 16, which Smith presented to the board on Tuesday.

After Winborn told the board why he was voting no, he turned to Police Chief Charlie Fazende and asked him what he thought should be done. Fazende told Winborn that it really does not matter to him, that whatever law is on the books, is the law the police department will enforce.

The ordinance was prompted when some people associated with a pool hall, or game room, connected to Logan’s Quick Stop at old Hwy. 26 and U.S. Highway 11, appeared on April 3 before the board and after some connected with the establishment charged earlier that Poplarville police had threatened to shut down the game room.

On April 3, the board took the complaints under advisement until April 17 when aldermen could talk to police and get the police department’s side of what happened.

The establishment has several video games, offers chess and checker games, but also has four pool tables that are popular with teenagers.

Poplarville police Capt. James Steinkamp said he gave the owners of the establishment a copy of the state law and informed them that it would be enforced.

Both Steinkamp and Fazende told the board on April 17 that the only reason they checked out the establishment was that during another investigation they were told by an adult patron of the establishment that a teenager had “drew down” on him with a pistol.

“That got our attention,” said Fazende.

Smith told the board on Tuesday that the ordinance does not aim any fines at the patrons, that the owners and managers would be liable for fines if underage teens are caught in the establishment.

The controversy eventually garnered the city a splash of publicity on WLOX, as Al Showers, with camera in hand, came to town.

Teens who hang out at the place said they do so because there is nothing else to do in Poplarville, and news reports said that a petition signed by 250 people favoring the establishment was presented to the board.

However, sources with the police department said that they had a number of complaints concerning the establishment, and that one teen as young as 13 was discovered frequenting the game room or pool hall.

The new ordinance says, “No person under the age of 16 years will be allowed to enter and remain in any poolroom or billiard hall located within the city of Poplarville, Mississippi.

“No owner or manager of any poolroom or billiard hall, and no agent or employee of any such owner or manager, shall permit or allow any person under the age of 16 years to enter and remain in any such poolroom or billiard hall.

“Any manager or owner of any poolroom or billiard hall, and any agent or employee of such owner or manager, shall for each offense, upon conviction, be fined not more than $100.”

The ordinance says it will take effect 30 days after its passage, which occurred on May 1.