A Mississippi town cited public health and safety concerns in denying a business license to a woman who wanted to open a gay bar.

Businesswoman Pat Newton's application for a business license was denied by a 4-to-1 vote on June 4.

Newton, who is openly gay, had in the 1990s operated O'Hara's, a bar in Shannon, Mississippi which mainly served LGBT customers. She decided to reopen her bar after receiving repeated requests.

At a Shannon Board of Aldermen hearing to review her business license application, Newton was confronted by a hostile crowd of more than 30 people opposed to her plan.

“I went in under the assumption that I would be in front of the five board members and the mayor and the clerk,” Newton said. “Which to my complete surprise it was about 30 citizens of Shannon.”

“People of the local churches had gotten together signed a petition against me opening the bar. It was 192 signatures.”

In a June 28 letter, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) demanded that the Shannon Board of Aldermen approve a business license for Newton or face a potential federal lawsuit.

“Over a century ago, the Supreme Court recognized that when a municipality denies a business license based on hostility towards a particular group, the municipality violates the Constitution,” the SPLC wrote. “We therefore request that the Board reconsider its denial and approve Ms. Newton's application by July 2, 2013, the next Board meeting. If not, Ms. Newton will pursue all available legal remedies, including filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi against the town and its officials.”

Newton added: “To walk away now would just be to say, 'Okay I agree with you. I'm going away.' And then, in a few years from now, someone else will come along and they get the same treatment. No, I don't think so. It has to stop somewhere.”