Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bessemer Police Raid Gip's Place: Shut it Down!

By: Lee Waites

(see BOTTOM of post for LINKS and UPDATES)

(Check back here: this post will be updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available)

At approximately 10:15 ,Saturday night, May 4th, the Bessemer Police raided and shut down Gip's Place, a world famous juke joint and, until the day after the raid, listed as one of the main attractions in the Bessemer area on the city's own website.

Gip's is requesting concerned music lovers and friends of Gip contact Bessemer City Hall and attend the city council meeting next Tuesday night to show support for Gip's Place. 

Toraine Norris – Mayor's Assistant
1800 3rd Avenue North
Bessemer, Alabama 35020
(205) 424-4060 phone
(205) 424-4372 fax

According to Bessemer PD the reason for the raid was running an illegal business. 

 We will post update as soon as any more information becomes available.  

Official Statement from Bessemer 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."

Thomas Trussell, who played prior to Randy Buell,  just an hour before the raid, gave us a brief statement:

"Mr Gip is truly one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He taught me not only a new way to play the blues but how the blues is a part of life. Jeff & Cindi also are wonderful people. They help run the place.

"It was a normal night at Gips. Every show starts with a prayer.

"I played from 7-830 give or take a lil bit. Mr Gip played a short set after me to celebrate the marriage of Randy & his new wife. After that the Randy Buell Band played.

"From the moment I met Mr Gip he was cool to me. Giving advice not just on music but life too. His place is a one of a kind venue. Musicians of all ages, races, color, & creed are welcome. They love Mr Gip like he loves them. If the city & Mr Gip can't work something out it would be a tragedy."

Response from Debbie Bond: Alabama Blues Project

 Dear Mayor Gulley,

As founder of the Alabama Blues Project, established in 1995 to promote and preserve Alabama Blues Heritage, I am writing to you to voice my concern regarding the closing of the Legendary Gips Place in Bessemer. It is my deepest ho
pe that you will do all you can to assist elderly Mr. Gip to keep his doors open. 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.

This internationally renown establishment has been in existence for over 60 years helping to preserve and promote regional blues culture. Gip and his 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.

Alabama Office of Tourism has listed it as one of the top ten Alabama music venues, showcased Gip's for the Year of Alabama Music, and regularly brings international travel industry personnel and writers to visit Gip's to promote Alabama tourism.

I notice until recently that the City of Bessemer listed Gips on the front page of your own webiste and that the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce regularly promotes this extroidenary blues cultural center. I know Bessemer has benefited economically from Gip's existence. I have personally recommended, forexample, to international visitors that they go eat at the Bright Star and go on to Gip's Place for the best food and live blues you will ever hear in it's traditional setting - all in Bessemer.

Mississippi has built internationl tourism around it's juke joints, helped them survive and as well as marking them with historic markers - encouraged it's own blues culture realizing how important and unique such places are.

Again, I it is my deepest wish that you will do the right thing and assist elderly Mr. Gip and the blues community do whatever needs to be done keep his doors open.



 Debbie Bond

(Update 5/7/2013 via Facebook)

"In order to be on the City Council Agenda you must call a week in advance. We did not call in time to get on the agenda. We are hoping for the opportunity for several Gip supporters to speak about the issue. 

"The reason they shut Gips Place down: From what we were told by Bessemer PD is The City of Bessemer considers Gips Place a business b/c money is exchanged (donation/paying of bands). Gip lives in a residential area that does not allow a business. The city wants Gip to move to a commercial building and become a business. From what we saw on TV there have been complaints by neighbor(s) stating that people are urinating on the streets, leaving trash in their yards, traffic congestion, and to much noise. (Jeff and I pick up trash IF there is any before Jeff and I leave each Sat night.) In the last 2 weeks Gip has been working on the parking situation and was in the process of having more street lights installed.

"We need to come up with a compromise with the City of Bessemer. Gips Place is an asset to the city and the state of Alabama as it is. We are hoping to get a meeting with the Mayor and City Council within the next week.

 "We want as many people there tonight as possible. Gip needs to know how many supporters he has! We want the city of Bessemer... and the state of Alabama to see how important this issue is. The news crew has contacted us and will be at the meeting filming the crowd. 

"Circlex Films, who has been working on a documentary on Gip, will be there filming as well."

(Update 5/9/13)
 A legal fund has been set up for Gip. We are not affiliated with this fund and are sharing this link as a courtesy. Please verify all details yourself before donating.

  Legal Fund for Gip

 Gip Gipson has been having backyard blues parties in his backyard since 1952. Recently, the City of Bessemer has decided to shut Gip's Place down and force him to move. They sent the Police to raid Gip's during a backyard blues show on May 4th, 2013 - citing that Gip was operating as a business and a license was required. Many of you know that Gip does not make money from his backyard blues parties. He does it for the love of music. This is the last original Juke Joint in Alabama and one of the few left in America.

Please help Gip fight the city of Bessemer and keep this historical treasure open! There are currently a few attorneys working pro-bono to help Gip work through this legal battle. They were there at the recent City Council meeting to represent Gip before the shameful display of power the Bessemer City Council Members were showing. Although the attorneys are working for free, they do have legal expenses, filing fees, and eventually will have to work long hours to help Gip stay open. This legal fund will help with all of the legal fees and will also help us launch a Facebook advertising campaign targeting the Bessemer City Council. 100% of the proceeds will go towards the legal fund and Facebook ads. If there is anything left over the remaining balance will go the Gip and his friends to help him keep the place running.

Thank you for your help. Let's keep up the good fight!

(Update 5/10/13)

The Show Will Go On

Cindi Gentry McGee tells BFP Music that the show will go on Saturday night, May 11, the first show since Bessemer police raided and shut down Gip's on May 4. She says that Gip and everyone involved would love to see a big crowd for the Jim "Dawg" Parks Band which will hit the stage at 8PM. 

The music is scheduled to end at midnight. According to McGee, after a previous discussion with Bessemer officials Gip's had agreed to end all shows no later than midnight. She denies any allegations of people urinating in yards or throwing garbage out. According to McGee those involved with Gip's have offered to clean any garbage found after the night of a show.

In order to avoid potential conflict with BPD, Gip is going to pay the band out of his own pocket. If any guests want to make a "love" donation they are welcome to do so. But no official cover charge will be in place. No wrist bands or tickets will be handed out. 

(Update 5/12/13)

Police Surround Gip's

Saturday night police set up road blocks on all the roads surrounding Gip's Place, checking car tags, registration, insurance and driver licenses. No arrests have been reported at this time. 

Police drove by Gip's video taping the crowd and many news agencies were on scene reporting and interviewing the crowd. Bessemer is asking Gip's to get a non-profit business license in order to assure compliance with building and safety codes, such as wiring and fire, according to a statement made during a BPD press conference outside of Gip's.

According to Cindi Gentry McGee, at one point BPD asked to speak with Mr. Gip. "The police asked to speak with Gip but Gip's team of attorneys went up the hill and did the talking. Police said turn music down. We turned the music down. Police left the top of hill and went back to their post to sit."

Other than the police presence the show went on without incident.  

 (Update 5/17/13)

 As of 9:30 AM, Friday the 17th of May Gip Gipson has not reached an agreement with the City of Bessemer as has been reported by some news outlets. According to Cindi Gentry McGee, although Bessemer has made an offer to Mr. Gip, which includes a number of issues the city is requiring him to address, he has not finalized any agreement at this time. 

According to McGee, Gip's attorneys will be drafting replies today, including a counter offer which will allow Mr. Gip time to reach the goals listed in Bessemer's demands. McGee, who claims that Mr. Gip and all of those supporting him in this cause would love to see the relationship between Gip and the City of Bessemer return to one of friendship. 

One of Gip's attorneys, says McGee, was told by a Bessemer city official that the mayor had exaggerated the number of complaints regarding Mr. Gip's parties. She told BFP Music in a phone interview this morning that she, and everyone who attends Gip's parties, have no desire for there to be an adversarial relationship with the City of Bessemer, or with the Bessemer Police Department. 

McGee admits that Mr. Gip might be a victim of his own success. Although she denies rampant disregard for Gip's neighbors, she admits that due to Gip's popularity there have been more people attending his shows. She says Gip intends to make certain changes, which she admits are needed to keep up with the increased attendance. But she questions why Bessemer officials can't work in unison with Gip as he is willing to be a good neighbor. 

McGee also states that she will be modifying any activities which might place Mr. Gip in the category of a business. McGee says Gip just wants to share his music, and the bands attending Mr. Gip's parties have also brought a number of their fans as well. So Gip will willingly attempt to work things out with the City of Bessemer to protect Gip's and respect the needs of the community.       

The show will go on this Saturday, May 17, and McGee asks that everyone who shows up continue to show the utmost respect for the neighborhood. McGee will stop posting about shows in social media and will cease any promotions which might lend to the appearance that Mr. Gip is running a business.  

Saturday's event:


  1. Everyone knows that Bessemer just wants their piece of the pie. Everything seems to boil down to the almighty dollar. BPD sucks!!!!!!

    1. This guy nailed it ^

  2. I hope this is resolved soon. Mr Gip is one of the best men I have ever met.
    We will all be singing the blues without Gips Place.

  3. I am 46 yrs old and have NEVER been to Mr. Gip's place. Always hear about it and have been invited but for some reason or another have never been able to make it. I would hate to know that I have missed my chance to ever experience what everyone talks sooooo highly of. Please bring Gip's back for me AND everyone else to continue to enjoy.

  4. Wanna run a business? Follow the proper channels; get your license and follow the zoning laws. This upset you? I bet you say the same thing about illegal aliens, undocumented workers, or whatever you want to call them this week. Do it the right way like everyone else

    Follow the rules and there are less problems in society!

    1. It is a juke joint not a McDonald's & definitely not a normal business if a business at all. If anything it's been open so long It should be grandfathered in & not under modern business laws.

  5. Seems to me that this whole thing could have been handled in a different manner by the city of Bessemer. Did a infraction of the zoning laws really require a "raid" of this peaceful and loving juke joint ?? I seriously doubt it. Shame on the city of Bessemer for giving Gips Place a very undeserving blemish. Take the best joint in town and close it down ?? There must be more to it than what the eye can see.

  6. The City of Bessemer have been talking with Mr Gip and his representatives about these issues for over a year now and have not cooperated on any of the issues that were brought to their attention . Bessemer does not want Gip's to shut down, they also suggested a crowd of 30 to 50 people instead of 200 to 300 people to remain open as a house party, having more than that every weekend is considered a business. Just like if you have more than one yard sale a year in Jefferson co . you need a lisence to sell and that income needs to be reported. To make matters worse Bessemer Police were aware of the $10 charge to get in, when you pay you get a wrist band, just like all other clubs, not to mention signs of how much you need to pay to get in , yet this is still being denied by his representative stating that it is a donation. When some one gives a donation it is what they are wanting to donate , you can not tell someone that the donation is a certain amount because that automatically turns it into a cover charge.
    This is very easy to solve as Bessemer is requesting of having 30 to 50 people and the party can continue. Fighting the City is only going to keep him shut down and in the media in a negative way.

    1. Mr. Gipson was told by Bessemer PD that Bessemer had a midnight noise ordinance and told him to turn the music off at midnight. Mr. Gipson did as told. Bessemer Police said that A neighbor had complained about trash in their yard, Mr. Gipson and friends already made sure there was NO trash in yards at the end of the night, prior to this complaint, therefore they knew it was a false statement made by A neighbor.

  7. The City of Bessemer had not been talking with Mr. Gipson or his friends for over a year. That is false information. Something to think about; if you are having a house party in a bad area of town; would you allow anyone on your property? When you see an armband on someone at Gips Place that does not mean they have paid money for that armband. That armband shows that you have been seen, or spoken to, by someone who is making sure you are there for the right reasons. There are many people who never make a donation to pay the band but they are wearing an armband. If you saw the sign that was put up temporarily at Gips that said "$10 contribution required" did you EVER think that it may have been to deter the thugs from trying to come on Gips property? If a thug thinks they have to pay to enter, they will turn the other way. The armbands are put on visitors to protect them.

  8. Thankfully...The RAID so many discussed....was over i one night. Media sensationalized this as a drame. Yet they stopped talking at the word Closed. With previous management,negotiations were met with Bessemer and my neighborhood for a peaceful solution,for all of us. Including the 10's of Thousands of fans who wrote letters,called,sent words loudly in support of what we stand for here. Things like that can never be repaid....I can only see it, as a blessing from God.
    Since October 2013...we have a new manager,who is very much inline with my needs and desires for my Backyard get togethers and things I want to do away from here,that I haven't had the chance before. A wonderful peace has fallen back into place since her arrival and I thank god for that,every day. is my personal page... is for my backyard get togethers....and my new domain for news and fun pics and info for the upcoming movie and official T shirt sales can be found here,