The multi-million dollar expansion of M-Bar Sports Grill in Jackson should have been billed as a patio extension instead of an amphitheater.
“We’re not talking about something like the Brandon Amphitheater, but a little outdoor stage,” said Jordan Rae Hillman, director of planning and development for the city of Jackson, who shared plans for the project. at a public meeting on February 10.
Hillman gave details of the project at the meeting at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum that drew more than 100 people worried that an outdoor location would create loud noise they would have to live with, affect the quality of life in neighboring neighborhoods, generates crime and causes a drop in the value of their property.
Plans call for adding an 8,500 to 9,000 square foot patio with a small stage and seating area for 200 to 300 people at the northeast corner of the M-Bar, located at 6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, Hillman said. The patio will replace several decks, she said.
More parking spaces will be added behind the bar, she said.
Jimmy Stiglets, acting president of the Lake Trace Homeowners Association, questioned why neighborhood associations close to the M-Bar weren’t told about the plans before they were announced and learned that city processes don’t require it. .
The M-Bar has filed a site plan review application with the city of Jackson which has been approved and has the necessary permits it needs, Hillman said. The rezoning was unnecessary because the M-Bar’s location is zoned Commercial-3 and that allows for patio expansion, Hillman said.
Ken Wilson, president of the Ridgewood Park Neighborhood Homeowners’ Association, said the concern over the expansion had nothing to do with race and nothing to do with politics.
“It’s all about quality of life,” said Wilson, who along with Ward 1 Jackson City Councilman Ashby Foote organized the meeting.
John Zehr, who identified as living about two blocks from the M-Bar, said noise is the main issue residents should be concerned about.
“There’s absolutely no way I’m forced to hear music of any genre that I don’t want to listen to,” he said.
Hillman, who said noise was the issue she would be concerned about, promised to personally enforce the city’s noise ordinance, a task usually handled by the Jackson Police Department. She asked residents of townhouses in Jamestown and Woodfield Drive to come to her as they would be more likely to hear the music from the M-Bar.
Zehr dismissed fears that the expansion would lead to violence in the neighborhood.
The M-Bar made headlines when a man was killed and four people were injured on March 21, 2021. A fight that started inside the club continued outside and led to an altercation between two groups, with the two shooting at each other in the early morning hours.
“It has nothing to do with violence,” Zehr said. “The violence that plagues us is not going to stop any time soon because we cannot afford enough police to deal with it.”
Richard Bradley, owner of the M-Bar and assistant women’s basketball coach at Jackson State University, did not attend the meeting. He had another obligation, said Vickie Bradley, mother of Richard Bradley.
The M-Bar attracts a “multicultural” crowd of adults 21 and older, features music that includes rhythm and blues and rap, and serves great food and drink, Vickie Bradley said.
“We invited you out,” she said. “It’s a safe place.”
Confusion over the project can be traced to an email to the media on January 28 describing the M-Bar expansion like this:
“The outdoor entertainment venue will include an amphitheater and stage for live music, glass garage doors that swing inside out, a beer garden with plenty of beer on tap, several large LED screens, fire pits, a playground for cornhole and other activities, mesmerizing fountains and waterfalls and fairy lights throughout the new area.
A fact sheet on the expansion that was distributed at the meeting acknowledged the confusion.
“Let’s clear up a misconception: the outdoor entertainment venue will include a stage and a small seating area for live music – for 200-300 people – and is not a large amphitheater.
“The expansion of live music will in no way violate the noise ordinance”
The fact sheet also provided these details:
“The expansion will be a labor force booster in the community…and create up to 50 new jobs.
“M-Bar currently has 50 employees and contractors…and has invested over $3 million in payroll and taxes for the community.
“The first phase of the expansion will be completed in August 2022. The second phase…which is still in the planning stage…will be completed in 2023. The estimated cost of the entire expansion is 8-10 million dollars.
“…M-Bar is committed to improving education through our many school programs…and stopping crime in its tracks through our partnership with the Jackson Police Department. Education and Safety of the community are our top priorities!
“M-Bar has worked diligently with the Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department to stop crime in its tracks. The site has donated over $20,000 worth of blue light surveillance cameras connected to the real-time command center which is monitored 24/7.
“M-Bar has donated more than $50,000 in technology and school supplies (laptops, printers and book bags) to students and families at Jackson Public Schools since 2015.”