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Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2003

Wichita clubs face trouble from gangs

Violence drives away good customers, business owners say

January 19, 2003

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— Wichita Police have seen that nightlife and gang activity can make for a deadly combination.

A fatal shooting last weekend outside a nightclub in Wichita's Old Town left other club owners and police saying it exemplifies what happens when a nightclub -- deserved or not -- becomes linked with gang activity.

If gang members take a liking to a certain club, it can doom that club's business, said Dennis Woods, who owned nightclubs in Wichita from 1974 to the early 1990s.

Managing a club became more trouble than it was worth in the late 1980s and early 1990s when gangs emerged in Wichita, he said.

"The good customers didn't want to come anymore, just the ones looking for trouble," Woods said.

Four days after 25-year-old James Haskins was killed after a dispute that started inside the Cave nightclub, the establishment was closed and the owner unreachable for comment.

There are certain techniques some clubs use to help keep free of gang troubles. Scott Larsen, owner of Bleachers, said carefully choosing music selections and strictly enforcing dress codes had help his club avoid gang-attractive atmospheres.

That's the best club owners can do, said Wichita Police gang unit detectives.

On Tuesday, officers will meet with Old Town business owners to explain what happened at the Cave and offer advice.

The shooting outside the Cave was the result of a dispute between rival gang members that started inside a club restroom, police said.

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