Politics & Government

Charlotte wants to limit CIAA ‘pop-up’ parties. That could impact Panthers tailgating

After gunfire has marred the CIAA basketball tournament the last three years, the city of Charlotte is considering clamping down on so-called “pop-up” parties that take place in empty parking lots and at other venues.

But any effort to regulate unofficial CIAA parties could create massive headaches for the city, because it could also restrict tailgating for Carolina Panthers games.

At a City Council committee meeting Wednesday, city officials struggled to explain how they might target one type of party – attended by mostly black fans – while bypassing other events.

“We don’t want to penalize the people who will be tailgating tonight,” said council member James Mitchell at Thursday’s meeting, hours before the Panthers were set to host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Council member LaWana Mayfield said she is worried about the “unintended consequences” of new regulations on Panthers tailgating and other festivals.

The 2017 tournament was the fourth consecutive tournament in which there had been violence associated with events surrounding the CIAA.

Last year’s shooting was perhaps the most disturbing. Before the men’s championship basketball game on Feb. 25, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said people in at least two vehicles started shooting at each other on North Caldwell Street. As many as 100 bullets were fired, hitting cars and multiple apartments.

After the shooting, hip-hop websites wrote that one of the targets was Memphis-based rapper Young Dolph, who was in town that night for an unofficial CIAA party/concert at Cameo Charlotte nightclub.

Young Dolph later released an album with songs titled “100 Shots” and another called “In Charlotte.” No one was hurt in the shooting.

First Ward residents complained to the city about a large number of pop-up tent parties taking place near their homes.

In 2016, police arrested three men after they shot 40-50 bullets, some from an AK-47, into cars and a condominium/hotel tower on the last night of the tournament.

After each incident, the city and the CIAA said the shootings weren’t related to official CIAA events. But after the North Caldwell shooting, the city started studying ways to make events during the tournament safer. The 2018 tournament runs Feb. 27 to March 3.

Officials are focusing on regulating – and possibly discouraging – parties held in and around uptown during the tournament.

But City Attorney Bob Hagemann said he doesn’t know how the city might do that.

The city said it’s considering having “pop-up” parties in parking lots apply for city permits, which is something they aren’t required to do now. The city said it would likely make the property owner apply for the permit, rather than the person holding the party.

Some council members suggested the regulations be in place only for large events like the CIAA. But a Panthers home football game is a much larger event, attracting roughly 75,000 people.

If the city focused on parties with large numbers of people, that could also ensnare some Panthers tailgates. In addition, could the city differentiate between a CIAA party in a parking lot with 100 people and a parking lot with 50 cars and 150 people tailgating before a Panthers game?

“We are going to have to work through that,” Hagemann said.

The city could also create a “special event zone” for the CIAA, and ask that all official or unofficial events take place inside that area. But it’s possible people could ignore that request and have their own CIAA party or tailgate outside the zone.

Council member Carlenia Ivory said she thought the city’s focus on parties wouldn’t solve the problem.

“There’s nothing we can do to keep them from coming,” she said about people with guns. “We can’t stop CIAA parties.”

Council member Ed Driggs also said he wasn’t sure the focus on pop-up parties would matter.

“Are people coming to party and trouble starts, or are people coming to Charlotte to make trouble?” he asked.

Charlotte first hosted the CIAA basketball tournament in 2006, after winning the event from Raleigh. The first years of the tournament were uneventful, with little crime. The CIAA receives nearly $2 million in taxpayer money as an incentive to keep the tournament in Charlotte.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs