Christal's Update 

Code department discovers this isn't a "regular" retail store.

The sign is up and the inventory is out, but it's going to be a while before Christal's adult novelty store will open in Cordova. In fact, it's the inventory that's causing the delay.

On November 28th, inspectors with the city's construction-code enforcement department responded to a request for a final inspection from Christal's owners. The inspection, and code enforcement's subsequent approval, was the last step before Christal's could open the store to the public.

But when inspectors picked through the store, they found that Christal's inventory, described by the store's owners as "retail," was actually what the inspectors term "adult novelty" and thus forbidden in Cordova by a 1995 city ordinance.

"Based on what we saw, we got a different opinion on what they were selling," says Allen Medlock, deputy administrator for the code-enforcement agency.

Earlier in November, Christal's representatives submitted an inventory list and store description to the code-enforcement agency, which resulted in Christal's being issued a business permit for a standard retail store.

Under the 1995 ordinance, a store can have up to 5 percent of its inventory as "adult novelty" and still be considered a regular retail establishment. More than 5 percent and the store is considered an adult novelty business, for which Germantown Parkway is not zoned.

"The tenant called us for a final inspection and when we went in we didn't feel like they had told us what they were really wanting to do there," says Medlock. "The adult novelty inventory definitely exceeded 5 percent so we determined that it wasn't a retail sales establishment."

If Christal's owners still want to operate in that location, they must either reduce the amount of adult novelty inventory or pursue litigation with the city. According to Medlock, Christal's attorneys have recently contacted the city's attorneys.

Christal's representatives could not be reached for comment.

Jammed In the Jail

County submits plan to fight overcrowding.

By Mary Cashiola

The Shelby County Jail is notorious for its past and present overcrowding. Two or three people in cells the size of closets. Inmates in bunks in the gymnasium.

But on Friday, the county submitted a population-management plan for the Shelby County Jail.

"We enlarged the plan that [county jail consultant] Arnett Gaston gave us," said county attorney Kathleen Spruill, "and we got input from the community to address a broad range of ways to reduce the jail's population."

The report suggested ways such as establishing a time frame for case disposition, reducing pre-sentence investigation time, and looking at expanding the existing drug court. Because a jail's population is dependent upon both the number of inmates arrested and how long they stay in the facility, all segments of the criminal justice process need to be assessed.

Another suggestion that the report felt would be viable for the county was to speed up probation violation hearings. The report noted that people who violate parole often have to wait an inordinate amount of time before a sentencing judge can schedule a hearing.

And it seems as if the county is trying to set an example. Spruill noted that they were ahead of schedule in developing and submitting the plan. The county should start implementing some of the practices by next spring.

The report noted it would not be easy, however.

"While many jurisdictions have had measurable success in reducing their jail populations," it read, "it is noteworthy that most are still not satisfied and Shelby County should be of the same frame of mind in order to have long-term success."

At the time of this writing, there are 1,953 inmates housed in the jail facilities.

Adam's Mark Settles With NAACP

Hotel reaches out-of-court agreement over lawsuit.

By Janel Davis

Adam's Mark Hotels & Resorts and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have reached a settlement resolving a discrimination lawsuit stemming from the 1999 Black College Reunion (BCR) in Daytona, Florida. Among the allegations, reunion participants claimed they were made to wear special wristbands and paid higher prices than other guests at the hotel.

The settlement includes $1 million in monetary relief to the five BCR plaintiffs, the creation of a $400,000 settlement fund to be distributed by the state of Florida to provide compensation for guests of the hotel during the weekend of April 9-11, 1999, and payments totaling $600,000 to four historically black Florida colleges.

In a prepared statement, NAACP president and CEO Kweisi Mfume said: "We are encouraged that the Adam's Mark hotel chain has stepped forward to do the right thing by resolving this matter. This is a great victory not just for the NAACP, but for the cause of civil rights in America."

Mfume had called for a boycott of all 24 Adam's Mark hotels in 14 states, including its Memphis property. The local NAACP branch conducted four demonstrations and maintained an ongoing boycott of the hotel.

A related lawsuit against the hotel chain by the Florida attorney general is also being withdrawn.

"This is the right and fair thing to do, even though Adam's Mark says they did nothing wrong," says Memphis NAACP branch executive director Johnnie R. Turner. "This is another example of the NAACP dealing with an issue that we didn't think we would have to deal with in the 21st century."

Although the hotel chain settled the lawsuit, Randy Myers, an Adam's Mark executive, says the company still has widespread support. "While the boycott has had some economic effect, we have continued to receive business from minorities," says Myers. "As much as 35 percent of our [corporate] business has come from organizations that are majority African Americans."

Adam's Mark also agreed to establish companywide diversity and sensitivity training, undergo monitoring by the NAACP, and drop all pending litigation against groups that canceled contracts and events at the hotel during the boycott.

Taking a Bow

Bryce leaves Black Rep Company.

By Chris Davis

Harry Bryce, founding member and artistic director of the Memphis Black Repertory Company, has left the organization, citing differences with the group's board of directors.

"The board of directors never took ownership of the organization," Bryce says, expressing his disappointment with the group's efforts to seek corporate sponsorship, sell subscriptions, and organize fund-raisers.

"Harry has been very good for the theater and the theater has been very good to Harry," says interim board president Jesse V. Johnson. "There have, however, been disagreements between management and the board," he continues, stressing that the artistic director's sudden departure was the result of a mutual agreement between Bryce and the board.

"The board has done quite a lot," Johnson adds. "Of course there is always opportunity to do more."

Natalie Robinson, who recently stepped down as president of the board, asserts that in the theater's last season subscription sales exceeded their budget. "Many board members, including Mr. [Jesse] Johnson, have gone after corporate sponsorship," she says.

The Black Rep has recently seen a delay in Arts Council funding, mainly because they have had problems submitting revenue reports. Kate Gooch, president of the Memphis Arts Council, says that the group "is on track," and that these problems should be rectified soon.

Bryce, who praises the Memphis community for its support of the Black Rep, is currently at Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Addicted To Dice?

Casinos teach employees how to spot compulsive gamblers.

By Janel Davis

The Isle of Capri Casino in Tunica is holding mandatory compulsive-gaming training for all of its employees this Thursday, with experts providing educational seminars, consultations, evaluations, and treatment information.

Compulsive gambling counselors Arnie and Sheila Wexler conduct training for all of the Isle of Capri properties as well as other casinos, including Trump Casino and Hotels and Horseshoe Casino, and the National Football League and National Basketball Association.

Arnie Wexler began gambling at age seven and continued until 30, losing more than $300,000 during the 23 years but never earning more than $325 each week. The classes discuss Wexler's own history, gambling statistics, the progression of the addiction, the relationship between drugs and gambling, and ways to recognize compulsive gamblers. Wexler says statistics show gambling addiction is two to three times greater among employees of casinos than the general public.

After the training, when game operators notice a customer with compulsive- gaming tendencies, they are instructed to report the incident to management.

"Once management is notified, we'll discourage [compulsive gamblers] from returning," says Isle of Capri promotions manager Lori Huffstutler. "We'll pull regular customers to the side. If the activity continues, they'll be [asked to leave] the property. We don't want that kind of gambler."

"Compulsive gamblers need to gamble like a drug addict needs a hit," says Wexler. "But with this addiction there are no signs -- no track-marks, no needle-pricks -- just the aftermath and the effects on the gambler and everything around them."

According to Jeremiah Weinstock, a therapist at the Gambling Clinic at the University of Memphis, as much as 3 percent of the national population are pathological, or compulsive, gamblers, and the trend holds true in the Mid-South.

"We get one to two calls a week from people who have seen our billboard advertisement [on Highway 61] coming from Tunica," said Weinstock. "The majority of our clients have been gambling in Tunica."

The Mississippi Gaming Commission does make compulsive-gaming training mandatory, and each Tunica County property conducts its own training sessions. The Isle of Capri casino is the only property that requires its entire staff to participate in the sessions.

Thursday's training is also open to the public.

Another Hole In the Square

Loony Bin comedy club closes.

By Lesha Hurliman

The Loony Bin, Memphis' only comedy club, closed this weekend after more than four years in business at Overton Square. The closing creates another gap along the southern side of the square; the Public Eye, vacant for more than a year, was demolished after a fire last month.

"We just didn't have any success marketing to an audience that wasn't willing to pay the cover price," says owner Larry Marks.

Marks was the first to sign a lease with the new ownership of Overton Square in 1997, and though he admits a good working relationship with them, he also admits being a little disappointed.

"The area wasn't promoted the way I was led to believe it would be and the way it should have been," he says.

According to Marks -- who also owns comedy clubs in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Wichita, Kansas -- the up-and-down trends in Midtown areas are quite common. He believes, however, that constant marketing is necessary to keep these areas afloat.

Says Marks, "The city spends most of their time promoting downtown."

Marks believes one result of the promotion deficit in Midtown is a belief by suburban residents that Overton Square is dangerous.

"I think it's crazy," he says. "Overton Square is one of the safest places in Memphis. We're sorry to be going, to be honest."

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