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Jonesboro officials say Party Hall 'a problem'

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Owners of a business largely blamed for recent changes to the City of Jonesboro's curfew ordinance, claimed they were going to host seemingly innocuous events, such as weddings, anniversaries and reunions, when they sought their business license, according to a city official.

Jonesboro City Hall Administrative Assistant Pat Daniel, responding to a Clayton News Daily request for information about the business license for the facility, said it is called The Party Hall, and is located in a shopping center, at 242 Stockbridge Road, in Jonesboro. She also said the business' owners, Gerald and Tasallah Okona, received their license to operate the facility on Nov. 22, 2010.

"It was obtained for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, graduations, promotion parties, hair shows, sweet 16 parties and 40th birthday parties," Daniel said.

But, earlier this week, city officials said ongoing issues at The Party Hall are what led the Jonesboro City Council to revise the city's teen curfew ordinance, so parents of children who violate the 11 p.m., curfew will be cited and fined. A particular concern of the city's is the fact that police are often being called to respond to fights involving teenagers at the business.

Jonesboro Police Chief Franklin Allen said his department has responded to at least eight calls of fights breaking out during parties at the facility, since it opened. This past Saturday, a 16-year-old ended up being arrested after he tried to hit an officer with his elbow, in the parking lot in front of The Party Hall.

"One of our officers made an arrest, and it was a partial assault on the officer, by a 16-year-old juvenile," said Allen, on Monday. "The juvenile has been charged, and everything has been forwarded to juvenile court to handle that."

Jonesboro Councilmember Pat Sebo said The Party Hall has ended up functioning as something other than what city leaders were led to believe. "It hasn't been open all that long, and it's almost from the time it opened, it's been a problem," she said. "It was my understanding it was to be a party rental place ... [It has been operating, however] like a club, like a teen club."

Sebo added that she is concerned that issues could escalate at The Party Hall, and become more serious. She said she was concerned it could become "another Tara Center," referring to a rental facility in unincorporated Clayton County.

County law enforcement officials have, in the past, said stabbings, and other, similar, serious crimes have taken place at the Tara Center during parties it was hosting.

On Monday, Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said the city will take action against The Party Hall, if police continue to have to be called out to deal with issues at the business. He has asked the city's police department to keep a log of every incident at The Party Hall to which they respond.

"If we have enough happenings, we will declare the place a public nuisance, and shut it down," Maddox said.

Allen said Jonesboro Police Lt. Anthony Lumpkin has had "several conversations" with the Okonas, particularly Tasallah Okona, about the city's issues with The Party Hall, but got little indication that anything was going to change at the business. The police chief said Lumpkin is keeping a file on incidents that occur at The Party Hall.

"He did have words with her [Tasallah Okona], and basically, from Lt. Lumpkin, her response was basically indifferent, didn't care, and she could basically lease it to whomever she wanted to," Allen said.

When owners of The Party Hall were called on Thursday, a woman who said she was Tasallah Okona, answered the phone, but she hung up when asked about Allen's assertions about fights taking place at the business.