Downtown Norfolk businesses react to city’s crackdown on crime

NORFOLK, Va. – The City of Norfolk is cracking down on crime even more.

This time, they’re calling on business owners to step up to keep people safe after Sierra Jenkins and Devon Harris were killed outside Chicho’s several days ago.

Emmett Jefferson co-owns Prime 255 on Granby, a bar and restaurant on Granby Street.

“We have security in front, inside,” Jefferson said. “The place is pretty secure.”

He’s hired security to ensure safety and believes the crack down with help curb the violence.

“I think it’s important for us as owners on the street to make sure our patrons are safe,” said Jefferson.

City officials have been popping into restaurants unannounced to enforce code violations. It’s part of the city’s multi-prong approach to immediately address the recent uptick in gun violence.

City officials unveiled the plan Tuesday afternoon.

“We are prepared to do everything necessary to maintain law and order downtown,” said Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer.

Starting Thursday, the city will randomly make unannounced stops at nightclubs and restaurants during the evening to make sure they’re not over-serving alcohol and getting too crowded.

“The person shooting, I don’t think they’re overly drunk shooting,” said Michael Copeland who owns Culture on Granby Street.

Culture used to be a nightclub until they were forced to surrender its permit in December and reopen as a restaurant. It came after complaints the club was a magnet for violence.

“We were never and have never been the problem for violence,” Copeland said.

Copeland said more police is the answer to fight crime, not surprise visits from city officials.

“I don’t understand what that’s going to do to stop violence outside, because the violence is not inside; it’s outside,” he said. “Harassing the establishments or owners or cutting hours…none of these things are stopping violence outside.”

Justin Quales, who works at Xchange next door to Culture downtown, agrees.

“I believe it really doesn’t have anything to do with the businesses itself; it’s who comes down here,” said Quales. “It all depends on who comes to the businesses and how they act while they’re at the businesses.”

Next week, the city is bringing business owners to the table so they can come up with ideas on how to address crime. Copeland is hoping to be part of that conversation.

As for the city inspections, that will continue for the next three months or longer.