Discussion on Business Licenses for Bands, Closing of Music on Main, Dominates City Council Meeting

By Jeff Toquinto on May 14, 2024 via

Discussion on business licensing requirements for bands playing at Bridgeport venues along with continued talk on issues involving Bridgeport Little League dominated a large portion of City Council’s meeting Monday.
With the bulk of the key items on the agenda set for executive session, most of the hour-long meeting involved comments during the public forum. With several individuals signed up to speak, Mayor Andy Lang moved the comments to just after the beginning of the meeting.
The majority of the comments focused on public concerns about the closing of Music on Main. It was on May 6 that the owners of the venue, Jack “Jackie” and Sommer Brown announced they were closing due to an email that the said the city was “wanting all performers to file for a city business license.”
The license is $15. However, the cost did not seem to be the issue to those who have voiced concern via social media and at Monday’s meeting. More so, those speaking believe it is a hassle and a deterrent to musicians, particularly at a small venue like Music on Main that hosts adults as well as youngsters for lessons, bands, a recording studio, and more.
Greg Harrison was the first to speak during the forum. Harrison, a long-time performer in Bridgeport and beyond, reiterated many points he spoke about in a May 7 Connect-Bridgeport article (found HERE) during his time speaking. He emphasized it was hurting youngsters who may have an interest in the arts.
“I would have loved to have had a place like that when I was young,” said Harrison. “My parents would have loved for me to have a place like that when I was young … This is hurting local artists.”
Brendan Gallagher, a Shinnston native who runs the magazine Born & Bred that focuses on music across the state, said the inconvenience will drive people looking to perform in Bridgeport to the next city along Interstate 79.
“Most bands see filing for a business license as a deterrent,” said Gallagher.
Lilly Kunning, the owner of Market on Main, said she previously owned a music venue. She said she also served as a promoter in the field as well. She was not aware of any situation similar to what Bridgeport is doing.
“This is not forward thinking,” said Kunning.
After everyone that had gone to the podium had talked on the matter, Lang addressed those gathered.
“We are diligently working after (looking into what to do) … It’s state law,” said Lang of why the city is beginning to charge the fee. “We’re working with our legal team. We talked to Charleston this week with our staff and we’re gathering information to see if we can make some changes and do what is right for our community. Understand, it’s not that anyone at this table or anyone on (city) staff doesn’t want to do it, it’s just that it takes time.”
Lang said time is needed to get the facts correct on the existing city ordinance and what legally can or cannot be done. He hopes to have a statement provided on the matter perhaps as early as the end of the week.
“It may take a week or two to get the facts or get a response, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. I’m not about to say something that is not the truth,” Lang said. “What we say will represent this (Council).”
One of the owners of Music on Main, Jackie Moore, was in attendance and did not sign up to speak but did talk to Connect-Bridgeport following the meeting. He said regardless of what transpires, the business will cease operations next month. While he said there were a handful of issues that led to the decision, including the license, he was still dismayed over being in business from 2021 and just learning of the license requirement recently and the possibility of paying a fine if bands did not acquire one.
“I’ve had several acts that have canceled already just because of having to jump through additional hoops,” said Brown, a musician, who like Harrison, said he’s never had to file for a license anywhere he has performed.
Brown said the most problematic thing of the scenario was learning about the requirement via email in recent weeks after having the business for three years. He said it would have helped knowing that during the process of opening the venue.
Brown said ticket sales last year came to $7,480. The ticket money he said was split between 144 acts (often two to three bands playing per evening he said) and along with him taking his cut the bands were netting around $35 from ticket sales.
Although dismayed at how he believes things have played out, Brown was clear when asked if he hopes a positive step can come out of this.
“Yes, I would,” said Brown emphatically when asked.
A solution for ongoing issues with Bridgeport Little League could also be forthcoming. Lang hopes to have answers from city staff and Council soon, but again emphasized it won’t happen “overnight.”
Aaron Horne, who is with Bridgeport Little League, reiterated past concerns regarding growth of the league exceeding field availability at The Bridge. He also voiced concerns regarding concession stands, which also has been a concern brought up multiple times.
“We need to be community first in planning and scheduling,” said Horne over getting use to facility’s at The Bidge.
Tyler Adams, a Louisiana transplant now calling the city home and coaching youth baseball, also spoke. He said those involved need to “focus on what makes Bridgeport great.” He asked for Council to do all they can to make investment in youth – including those in the arts as well as sports.
Lang said Council will be looking to find ways to work out solutions. He then pointed to a history, pre-dating his arrival as mayor, of millions spent by the city on new fields at places such as Bridgeport City Park and most recently The Bridge.
As for the scheduled agenda, three big items listed on it for both the regular 7 p.m. session and the 6 p.m. work session were all in executive session. The work session featured talk on the advanced construction planning at The Bridge, and it was also an item for the regular agenda.
Also on the regular agenda was discussion about the vacant city manager’s position, which fell under personnel for executive session. And the third item was construction planning discussion on the new Bridgeport Police Department.
Click HERE for information on those three items. They were discussed in length in a Council preview story, which is linked.
In formal business Council did address, the city’s governing body gave an okay to General Fund Budget Revision #8. It involved a few items, including producing $92,058 to pay for a 10-year comprehensive plan for the city. The money comes from $32,000 in tax loss restoration funds not yet budgeted, and $60,058 in interest earnings due to higher interest rates.
The revision added $51,110 to the police equipment account for funds received from the sale of police vehicles through The budget also increased by $1.9 million for B&O tax collections that will now be transferred to the capital improvement fund.
Another item of business saw Council change its next meeting date. The next meeting falls on May 27 – Memorial Day. Council typically makes the change to the following day, in this case Tuesday, May 28, and that is what was recommended and approved.
Council also took the next, and final, step to rezone an 11.46-acre parcel from Business-2 (large scale commercial business) to Residential-3 (single family, multi-family, and duplex units) at the White Oaks development. The property is the large lot above the future home of Jenkins Subaru and Jenkins Hyundai and is expected to be a seven-figure plus project one once built out.
Headlining the awards and presentations portion of the meeting was the swearing in of Bridgeport Police Officer Clayton Bee. Bee recently completed training at the West Virginia State Police Academy and has begun training with a seasoned officer to get him ready to oversee solo work. Photo and a write up later on Connect-Bridgeport.
There were also two proclamations presented last night. The first proclamation was for National Police Week, while the second proclamation was for Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month.
Retired Pastor Mike Hopkins of Simpson Creek Baptist Church led the invocation.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Greg Harrison addressing Council during the public forum portion of the meeting, while Tyler Adams is shown in the second photo. Third images shows Music on Main owner Jack "Jackie" Brown in the audience, while Mayor Andy Lang is shown below.

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