Last Saturday night, Gip’s Place in Bessemer was shut down by police. Gip’s Place is an world famous local blues joint that has operated since 1952. Gip Gipson runs backyard blues parties every Saturday night in his backyard. It’s one of the last remaining juke joints in America! The only problem with Gip’s Place is it’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood. For the last 60 years, no one has complained and the police has never been involved. Suddenly the police decides to raid and shut down the place. In my opinion, something does not make sense here!
According to Bessemer Police, the reason for the raid was running an illegal business. Here is a statement from their website.
“The establishment has caused quite a bit of problems for the homeowners who are neighbors of Mr. Gipson. Many of these homeowners are elderly.
We have received multiple calls from homeowners over the last several months who say loud music from Gip’s Place has inhibited their ability to sleep.
Several residents even complained of seeing people relieving themselves in yards and along the roadway. Others complained to us of traffic congestion and litter.
“We have continuously appealed to Mr. Gipson and his associates to acquire the proper zoning and licensing. We also explained our willingness to work with him to resolve any matters as they pertain to meeting city legal requirements.
Unfortunately, our appeals were not met with the proper response. We feel it is necessary to close the establishment to ensure that the rights and wishes of the homeowners are being respected.
“We are aware of the popularity of Mr. Gipson and his establishment, but we must balance whatever fame his establishment has accumulated with the rights of Mr. Gipson’s neighbors. We also can not allow Mr. Gipson to operate outside of our laws while requiring other businesses within our city to operate by the same laws. “Should Mr. Gipson and his associates wish to take the necessary steps to re-open his establishment, the Mayor’s Office and the employees of City Hall are willing to work with them, as we do with other businesses. This would include the process of securing the necessary zoning through our various zoning boards, all the necessary licensing to open lawfully or by finding a new location within our city more suitable for such activities.
“Until such time, we must respect the rights of the homeowners and ask Mr. Gipson to remain closed.”
Gip’s Place is listed in the Alabama Tourism Guide as one of the top ten Alabama music venues. It has showcased Gip’s for the Year of Alabama Music. And it regularly brings international travel industry personnel and writers to visit Gip’s to promote Alabama tourism. This internationally renown establishment has been in existence for over 60 years helping to preserve and promote the regional blues culture. Gip’s place has become an international land mark and the subject of national and international news stories and documentaries, including Southern Living, National Public Radio, National Public Television as well as books in the US and Europe. It has helped to put Alabama blues on the map, support the blues music culture, and bring commerce to Bessemer.
Here’s the crazy thing, the City of Bessemer listed Gips’ on the front page of their own website but now it’s gone. The Bessemer Chamber of Commerce regularly promotes this extraordinary blues cultural center. Bessemer has benefited economically from Gip’s existence. Many restaurants and hotels have benefited from Gip’s Place. I just don’t know why the City of Bessemer would shut something down that is known around the world! Gip’s Place has existed for the last 60 years with no problem, and now, they decide to raid. It does not make sense. Here’s a video from the YouTube channel Circlexfilms supporting Gip’s Place.
The state of Mississippi has worked to keep their juke joints operating. They have built international tourism around its juke joints and even place historic markers. Mississippi actively promotes its blues culture and they realize how important and unique these such places really are! Organizations like the Alabama Blues Project actively works to promote the blues and juke joints in Alabama. They are against the closure of Gip’s Place. As Debbie Bond from the Alabama Blues Project puts it; “the loss of Gip’s Place will be devastating to the State of Alabama , the international blues community, as well as elderly Mr. Gip himself.”
On Tuesday May 7th at 6 pm, the Bessemer City Council will hold their regularly scheduled council meeting. You can bet there will be many people packed into the chambers to speak out against the closing. All of the Birmingham Media will also be there to cover this unfair closure. I hope the City of Bessemer and the city council will change the fate of Gip’s Place and vote to keep it open. As of right now, I smell a cover up and corruption within the City of Bessemer. Someone is not happy about Gip’s Place, and they decided to take advantage by shutting it down. If Gip’s Place is not allowed to open again, I will not be spending any money in Bessemer, and I hope you will boycott Bessemer too.
Follow the save Gip’s Place Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/SaveGipsPlace
- Gip’s Place founder hopes to keep blues coming after Bessemer closes juke joint over zoning, complaints (al.com)
- Bessemer police shut down backyard blues joint Gip’s Place (al.com)