Mississippi bar owner explains why he kicked patrons out of bar as tornado loomed
Bar 612 in Starksville, along with other nearby restaurants, shuttered their doors after a tornado warning was issued for the area. The patrons inside the bar were asked to leave, The Washington Post reported.
What followed was a disaster — that had nothing to do with a tornado.
The Starkville Police Department said they received a “report of a disturbance” from the bar as they were trying to shut down.
“Approximately one hundred people were trying to fight security from leaving the building and trying to stay inside at this time,” police said in a statement.
After officers arrived, police reported “a physical altercation and intervened.” Police said they subdued a man who was involved in a physical altercation. The department confirmed they “did not initiate an evacuation of Bin 612” or “any other business during this time.”
Some patrons posted videos on social media showing the chaos that occurred following the evacuation. Social media users slammed the bar for shutting it down instead of giving people shelter in the business’ basement from the tornado, The Washington Post reported.
The bar owner and chef Ty Thames clarified the reasoning for the closure.
“We’ve been talking to the National Weather Service and other experts and all of them said we needed to get everyone out of that glass building and into a safer structure,” Thames told the Starkville Daily News. “We started clearing everyone out 40 minutes before, but a lot of people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to stay and hang out with their friends and felt it was a cry wolf scenario.”
Thames said the bar’s basement could not hold 100 people.
“The [basement] floors aren’t set up for a nighttime influx of 100 people and it can only hold 15 to 20 people,” Thames said. “How do you judge who goes down there? The best thing we could do was shut the business down and escort everyone out to a better shelter.”
Thames told the Commercial Dispatch that he has a contract with the security company, Average Joe’s Security. He said he does not condone the guards’ “language or aggressive behavior.”
The owner said he was in contact with the National Weather Service and meteorologists on what was the best plan would be going forward if another tornado hit the area.
“What we’d like to do is get them involved and get them to help me write a clear plan of action and do training so something like this won’t ever happen again,” he said.
Powerful storms across the South left at least eight people dead. The National Weather Service confirms a tornado struck Starkville.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.