Norfolk city leaders to investigate downtown business practices following mass shooting

Norfolk businesses
Posted at 11:02 PM, Aug 06, 2022

NORFOLK, Va. – The City of Norfolk will now be holding businesses downtown accountable for the violence that stems inside their establishment and continues outside.

Several business owners along Granby Street did not want to speak on camera but tell News 3 they should be held responsible especially when alcohol is involved. Other owners say they feel like they’re being scrutinized for the wrong reasons.

All business owners from coffee houses to restaurants to clubs will have to explain why they should be allowed to stay open.

Baxter Simmons, who owns Baxter’s, a bar and lounge on Granby Street, doesn’t agree with that part of the new plan.

“We’ve been down here 18 years now with no issues, so for me to have to go and explain myself is kind of tough,” Simmons said.

The latest effort is meant to crack down on crime. It comes after police say Tyshawn Gray, 25, of Norfolk, shot into a crowd as he was leaving Legacy nightclub on E. Plume Street in the early morning hours Friday. They say he injured four people including an on-duty sheriff’s deputy.

Norfolk City Manager Dr. Chip Filer did not mince words Friday hours after the mass shooting. He said many of the shootings are happening inside the bars late at night as they’re closing.

He now wants to hold them accountable.

“It is not about going after everybody,” said Filer. "It is not about shutting down everybody. It is about folks providing a very clear path for how they plan to be good corporate citizens to enhance the vibrancy, energy, and activity that’s happening in our downtown district.”

Filer said the city will immediately start to investigate how businesses operate downtown and evaluate their permits.

Aaliyah Lyons, the main manager of Urban Ice on Granby Street, says the problem doesn’t always point to the owners.

“I feel as if it’s not really holding them accountable but it’s blaming them,” she said. “It’s pushing the prerogative that it’s their fault as if they’re letting this happen.”

The city has taken many measures to try and curb violence downtown, including adding cameras, bolstering the police presence and enforcing code violations.

While Filer said some of those measures have helped, it’s not stopping would-be criminals.

Simmons said he understands why the city is putting its foot down. He said he has trained security to prevent things from getting out of hand but added that sometimes it’s simply out of their control.

“It’s not about overserving [alcohol] all the time,” Simmons said. “Some of the people that come down just, I hate to say it, aren’t good people sometimes and you can’t tell that when somebody walks in your door.”

The city has not given a timeline of when they expect business owners to have a discussion with them.

Meantime, city leaders say they’re also weighing the option of implementing a curfew.