The shooting that took place at The Spot in New Llano back in December has affected the surrounding community in many ways.
A local bar owner, who was directly affected by the incident, now claims that she is facing unfair treatment because of the incident.
Recently, the Fort Polk JRTC Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board has placed The Spot, a popular bar in New Llano, on its list of places that are off-limits to soldiers.
According to Fort Polk, soldiers that go to a place that has been labeled off limits could face disciplinary action.
Melissa Smith, who is the owner of The Spot, has expressed she believes her business is being unfairly treated, and that she was given no chance to address the board before the decision was made.
“This is my livelihood and it feels like being taken away from me,” Smith said. “I feel like I need to fight back because this is hurting me financially.”
Smith claims that earlier this month she received a memo claiming that her bar was placed on the “off limits” list. She also stated that she was told that she would not have an opportunity to address the board until early March.
Although Fort Polk has not directly stated that the shooting influenced its decision, Smith expressed she believes it is the reason. She also expressed that many untrue things have been said around about The Spot since the incident took place.
The VPSO has not released any information about the shooting since it took place and many unverified rumors about the incident have begun to spread.
Smith emphasized that the shooting, and the fight that led up to it, happened entirely outside The Spot that night.
Smith also noted that she was friends with Mark Fernandez who was killed during the incident.
“Mark was a dear friend of mine and I cried for days after all that happened,” she said. “I feel like I’m being punished for something that was completely outside of my control. It was nothing I could prevent. It all happened outside. There was no fight of any kind inside the bar. Not one punch was thrown.”
As of this writing, there are only three establishments that are labeled as off limits. They are The Spot Bar in New Llano, Pipes Emporium in Bossier City and Kokopellis in Shreveport. Placement on the list is not permanent and Fort Polk Public Information Officer Kim Reischling has stated it is possible to get off of the list.
“There's a rigorous process for having something declared as off-limits,” said Reischling. She mentioned that there are a wide variety of reasons why a business could be placed off limits. She said that if the board receives complaints, hears about incidents, or discovers unfair practices the board can recommend that the establishment is placed off limits.
At this time, the board has not yet released why the bar was placed off limits.
Reischling further explained the process stating “the process starts with our Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, composed of leaders and law enforcement from across the installation. Once the board recommends a business to be declared off-limits, the final decision lays with the commanding general. If he agrees, based on the research, it is signed into policy.”
Smith expressed she feels that her business is being singled out because it is a bar and that she has many longtime military customers who she is very close too.
“If a similar incident happened at Walmart, would they ban soldiers from coming to Walmart? So many of my regular customers are soldiers, and they are like family to me. I don’t want their careers to be at risk. Many of them have come to me and told me to do whatever I can to get this fixed,” Smith said.