Ocean Springs business owners working to create “culture of safety” following mass shooting

Leading into Memorial Day weekend, downtown Ocean Springs bars and restaurants are gearing up for busy nights ahead.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 9:20 PM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Leading into Memorial Day weekend, downtown Ocean Springs bars and restaurants are gearing up for busy nights ahead. Those businesses are doing so with an extra focus on keeping their customers safe, less than a month after the mass shooting at The Scratch Kitchen.

“I only think that we can maintain a culture of safety if we create a culture of safety,” Kenny Williams said.

Williams owns and operates Mosaic along with three other bars and restaurants in downtown Ocean Springs. He said creating a culture of safety starts with making sure everybody is on the same page.

“I think we need to collaborate better as business owners in sharing communication,” said Williams.

In the last week, Williams gathered with other downtown business owners, including Bill Yockey from the Rooftop Taco and Tequila Bar. They met with city leaders and brainstormed ideas to prevent future violent incidents.

“If we ask somebody to leave our area, we’re going to make sure that our friends over at Neon Moon or across the street at Glory Bound are communicated with and they communicate with us,” said Yockey.

“If we know somebody is not where they’re supposed to be or doing something they shouldn’t be doing, we need a way to share that communication in two ways — not just with each other, but also with local police,” Williams said.

Ideally, the communication would be quick and easy.

“We’re going to try and find an app we can all go on so we don’t have to make 7 or 8 phone calls. You can just go on the app and let everybody know what the problem is,” Yockey said.

Also, plans are in the works to have an increased police presence downtown with more lighting on the street.

“We’ve asked to light up the parking lights that are surrounding Government Street,” said Yockey. “We feel like a lot of the bad things that were happening were people that were partying in the parking lots and then coming into the bars and restaurants a little further along than they needed to be.”

Despite the recent act of violence at The Scratch Kitchen, Williams is doing everything he can to make sure it will be an isolated incident.

“This is an intensely safe place, if you take the data over ten to 20 years this is a really safe place to be and we want to encourage people to come do business in Ocean Springs,” said Williams.

Both Williams and Yockey said they use ID scanners to prevent underage people from coming in. Also, firearms aren’t allowed inside the businesses, security guards actively look out for firearms and they take measures to keep guns out.

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