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Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Last Call argues it’s been targeted for clientele

ABC hearing wraps up; decision on whether to renew club’s liquor license expected by Dec. 3

Police respond to  a possible shooting May 14 at Last Call, on the 700 block of New Hampshire. On the second and final day of a hearing to determine whether the state should renew the liquor license of Last Call, 729 N.H., the club's owner and attorney alleged the city's police force has improperly targeted the club and have misrepresented the amount of criminal activity happening at the club.

Police respond to a possible shooting May 14 at Last Call, on the 700 block of New Hampshire. On the second and final day of a hearing to determine whether the state should renew the liquor license of Last Call, 729 N.H., the club's owner and attorney alleged the city's police force has improperly targeted the club and have misrepresented the amount of criminal activity happening at the club.

November 21, 2007

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Last call for Last Call?

The fate of a controversial downtown Lawrence nightclub, Last Call, and the decision to renew its liquor license, rests in the hands of state officials. Enlarge video

The controversial downtown club Last Call is safer than most and is falling victim to stereotypes associated with hip-hop music, supporters of the club told state regulators who are considering pulling the club's liquor license.

"There's a thing called fear of a black dance floor," Topeka disc jockey Vandom Pittman told the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control division Tuesday. "Anyplace there are more than 10 black people, unless it is a church, there's fear."

On the second and final day of a hearing to determine whether the state should renew the liquor license of Last Call, 729 N.H., the club's owner and attorney alleged the city's police force has improperly targeted the club and have misrepresented the amount of criminal activity happening at the club.

As expected, the director of the ABC did not issue a ruling on the license issue. He expects to decide whether to renew the license by Dec. 3, the day the club's license is set to expire.

Police reports

City leaders vigorously denied any suggestion that they have targeted the club because the vast majority of its patrons are black or that it has a hip-hop music format. Instead, city attorneys presented evidence that the club has issues with gang activity, drug usage and weapons violations.

"Last Call has real problems," Scott Miller, an attorney for the city said. "It is a public safety concern. It is a public safety menace."

Dan Owen, an attorney for Last Call owner Dennis Steffes, said many of the police reports being attributed to Last Call are related to activity outside of the bar. Owen also said several of the police reports came about because Last Call had called the police notifying them of problems. In one case, Last Call staff called the police after its security crew confiscated drugs from an individual attempting to enter the club. Owen said it was wrong of the city to use that report against the club, in part, because it would discourage other clubs from calling the police when problems arise.

"That would be one of the most unwise public policies that I have ever heard of," Owen said.

Club patrons' view

Several patrons also testified that conditions in the club were not as bad as police officers had described in testimony Monday.

"It gets packed and sometimes someone steps on someone's foot or something and someone gets mad, but security is always right on it," said Rick Easter, a longtime patron who recently began working at the club. "There's never been a brawl or anything like that."

Pittman, who has worked previously as a disc jockey at Last Call, said the safety of the club is why it attracts a large crowd from many area cities.

"The reason they come to Lawrence is because they get discriminated against everywhere else they go," Pittman said. "Club owners get scared if too many minorities are in their business. Dennis is the first one to break through that in Lawrence."

City attorneys, though, countered that the club has become an attraction to gang members because the club's security staff does not cooperate with the police. Instead, the city argues that Last Call security personnel make it widely known when police are entering the building.

"Last Call's security system is nothing more than a Paul Revere system: The police are coming. The police are coming," Miller said.

Owner frustrated

Steffes testified that he's become frustrated with the way the city has dealt with his club. He said police officers frequently monitored the club from the rooftop of the Hobbs Taylor Loft building across the street. Surveillance cameras trained on the club also were placed in that building. Steffes said that on at least three occasions a sheriff's dog was placed in front of the building and intimidated patrons entering the bar.

Steffes said he believes he's been responsive to problems that have occurred at the club. Following a May 2006 incident where seven shots were fired in the club, Steffes said he purchased a metal detector and hired an outside security firm to conduct pat-downs of all patrons entering the club. He said he or an employee screens all people wishing to enter the club to determine if they have a "respectful" attitude.

"I'm not going to say that we have never had a problem," Steffes said. "I'm not going to say that we have never had staff members misbehave or some other issue. But we take care of the problems and they don't last long.

"But now, we have reached the point where they (city leaders) just don't like who I am letting in."

The city requested the two-day hearing regarding the Last Call's liquor license renewal. The club needs the state liquor license to remain in business. But if the license is not renewed, it likely would start a lengthy legal battle. Steffes could appeal the decision on several levels, and Owen said Tuesday the appeal process likely would be a two- to three-year legal odyssey.

Comments

doc1 7 years, 1 month ago

Hello??? The Police are doing their jobs. When 9 fights break out in one night I think it's a good thing the Police are there. They're on the rooftops and have surveillance so that when someone gets shot they have evidence of who is responsible. I would rather have those officers there so that when the proverbial s**t hits the fan they can take care of buisiness before the innocent bystander doesn't get hurt. If the cops weren't there and something happened someone would complain about that too. It's damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

I am sick a tired of the politically correct so-called "progressives" defending Mr. Steffes' money grab in the name of "diversity" and accusing the opponents of Last Call as "racists." Mr. Steffes doesn't give a damn about public safety or racial diversity. It all a matter of bucks--the big bucks which the out-of-town thugs and scoff laws stuff in his pockets when they travel to Lawrence for "hip hop" night.

To you ignorant "progressives" crying for diversity, how would you feel if Steffes had a regular "skin head" night which brought real live neo-Nazis into town to booze, drug, and terrorize random Lawrencians.

As a child of the civil rights movement, I can assure you there is nothing progressive about gangster rap. It's a Nihilistic culture consisting mostly of base and senseless violence, and when its drama plays out in the streets with innocent victims of drive by shootings, its minimal culture value is rendered valueless.

Moderateguy 7 years, 1 month ago

What a worthless arguement. "The trash was in the trash can while it was in my garage. Now that I've dumped it out all over your yard, it's your problem." He attracts these criminals to our town, takes their money, gets them drunk and then dumps them out on our proverbial front lawn for the rest of us to deal with. If the police try to dissuade them from coming to Lawrence by a strong presence or using drug sniffing dogs, he claims harrassment.

If his establishment doesn't fit the definition of a public nuisance, I don't know what does.

Shut it down!

lounger 7 years, 1 month ago

"Safer than most"--What a silly comment! Everyone knows this is a magnet for K.C. thugs. SHUT IT DOWN!

LiberalDude 7 years, 1 month ago

This isn't about race, this is about violence. There are plenty of other places in Lawrence where a majority of the patrons are black or other minorities that don't have the violent track record. Steffes argument is weak. People from Kansas City and Topeka go there because Steffes gives them a safe haven to do illegal activities. Shut it down.

effbombs 7 years, 1 month ago

where is the proof that last call is a safe haven for illegal activities?

Victor Dawson 7 years, 1 month ago

First all, not everyone who attends Last Call is a criminal!!! Second, I do think it's amazing that the spot light has only been placed on this establishment. I've been in this town a long time and I am sorry to say "we are not as progressive thinking as we think we are." There are some issues with race and the hip hop culture. Is Last Call the only bar in town that has fights? I think not!!! The shooting into the bar is more concern for me. Let's look at shootings/stabbings. What about the great shootout at Henry's T years ago or the shooting/stabbing on Mass St. I think we should shut down Henry T's (man I love those wiings) or maybe even Mass St. all together. If neither exist, then there is no place for these "criminals" to come to our town and cause trouble. Matter of fact we sould declare Marshal Law and shut down the city. All in favor vote by the usual voting sign . . .

yellowhouse 7 years, 1 month ago

Make this simple

Pull the license from every bar in Lawrence that has had a shooting, stabbing, drunk person hit by a car, or a fight where the police were called.

Every bar that has the wrong race of people attending needs to go.

And every bar that promotes bad breath, cussing, dirty dancing, alcoholism and cigarette smoking is definately out.

That should do it!

Lawrence will be cleaned up, progressive and beautiful once again.

Confrontation 7 years, 1 month ago

The Last Call clients who are causing trouble will just go somewhere else in town. Lawrence is the "friendly territory" place for gang members from Topeka and KC to meet. They won't just move along to KC, Topeka, or Tonganoxie (ha!). I wonder if Steffes will create a rap night at Coyote's in order to keep up his profits? Rifle carrying cowboys and handgun carrying gang members would be an awesome mix! There'd be a 500% increase in Lawrence hate crimes. "I hate cowboys." "I hate gang members."

I'd recommend we set up an official location as the new friendly meeting place. Maybe we can use an empty lot in the business park out on K-10. Surround the lot with barbed wire and electric fence. Then, when gunfire breaks out, everyone will be taken care of and contained. Yes, put the cowboys in there, too.

Confrontation 7 years, 1 month ago

Yes, and we should eliminate business that let customers purchase stolen goods. Then, "Lawrence will be cleaned up, progressive and beautiful once again."

effbombs 7 years, 1 month ago

observar- wow...are you really that judgmental? as you probably have never even walked by last call don't know that the 'clientele' or 'patrons' changes like the seasons...yes sometimes there are more 'gang banger' types but most of the time it's just a more urban crowd that enjoys the music and wants to have a good time on saturday night. so saying 99+% of the patrons are scum seems rather hateful and uncalled for to me.

now I am not going to sit here and defend Dennis at all...personally I do not like the guy. But I have my own reasons for that and unlike some I make those type of decisions based on actual interactions with a person not based on the media's portrayal of him. But I do think credit should be given to whoever runs his security. To my knowledge Last Call is the only club thats had a shooting thats installed metal detectors and proactively searches and pats everyone down. And the list of clubs with shootings is not small...maybe other clubs should consider that to be proactive and at least attempt to show that they care about their patrons.

The security there goes above and beyond other clubs including assisting the cops every saturday night in trying to clear out the parking lots...but thats not something Olin would want to share.

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

"The Last Call clients who are causing trouble will just go somewhere else in town."
--I tend to disagree. The Last Call is the only magnet that brings these gun-wielding thugs into town. Close Last Call, and they'll find another destination city for their road trips.

Also, i think its a little disengenous to compare the isolated shootings at other clubs with an apparent continuing pattern of guns, thugs and drugs frequenting the Last Call.

ralphralph 7 years, 1 month ago

stereotypes associated with hip-hop music

Stereotypes? Accurate descriptions? It's a fine line. Sure, everyone who steps in there is not a shooter, but a lot are. It's prison culture, and it's all about thugz. Time to shut it down.

akt2 7 years, 1 month ago

This situation effects Lawrence from many different perspectives. Bottom line is they just can't allow this type of business. They have had enough, and the subject is almost closed. It's been done now, and it doesn't work in Lawrence.

Confrontation 7 years, 1 month ago

"The Last Call is the only magnet that brings these gun-wielding thugs into town."

How about the shooting at the Granasty? What about the shooting at Brothers? How about the bar that is now known as Liquid? There was a gang-related murder at that location years ago, and they started increasing security. What happened? The gang members moved on to another bar in Lawrence. Seriously, Lawrence is the meeting place, and they'll just move around. They'll come in and take over a particular night at a particular club. The owner will enjoy the cash flow and ignore the safety threats (and possibly pocket a little bribe money).

Suggesting that closing Last Call will eliminate gang members from city establishments is like assuming that closing the homeless shelter would eliminate the homeless population. It's not going to happen. They may be slightly deterred, but they will come back in full force once they find another establishment/service to dominate. Better security and heavier fines/sentences are the only answers that I can think of, but that's just my opinion.

thomgreen 7 years, 1 month ago

So, if you shut down Last Call, what keeps him from opening up another club, in another location under a different name? If you yank the liquor license for Last Call, what sort of repercussions does it have on Coyote's? Just curious, that's all.

Unfortunately, I think there a few bad apples from K.C. and Topeka (and possibly Lawrence too) that have continually given Last Call a bad name. It's too bad though, diverse entertainment opportunities bring more dollars into the community, but at what expense? To blame it on hip hop music is asinine. Bad apples are bad apples, no matter what type of music you listen to.

George_Braziller 7 years, 1 month ago

thomgreen - As an immediate neighbor I just want it gone. As it is right now I just don't want any "repercussion" to be a bullet through the window or (another) gun discarded on a neighbor's porch during a police chase.

"thomgreen (Anonymous) says: So, if you shut down Last Call, what keeps him from opening up another club, in another location under a different name? If you yank the liquor license for Last Call, what sort of repercussions does it have on Coyote's? Just curious, that's all."

toefungus 7 years, 1 month ago

Should be called the last straw. It is time to close this goofy place down.

plcigar 7 years, 1 month ago

I say leave it open. Thinning out the herd.......Just like that place on Merriam Dr, (in Merriam), where people have been killed or hurt on "rap/open mic night". The only people getting killed or hurt are the loser thugs that go there. They are all black? Sorry, but who's fault is that? There arent a lot of shootings and deaths at country wetern bars, are there? Maybe it's the color of the skin, maybe it's the "street cred" culture, maybe it's the "music". Let the thugs continue to get killed or hurt, less problems for future society.

Sigmund 7 years, 1 month ago

First close the Granada, Brothers, Henry T's, and All Stars because of the ACTUAL gun injuries and death outside those bars. Then repeal of Lawrence's marijuana ordinance reducing the penalties and avoiding the criminal prosecution for smoking pot. Then name a single incident where a single person was injured inside or on the street outside of The Last Call by a gun. Then prove that Steffes is receiving drug payoffs. Then pass an ordinance(s) holding ALL bar owners accountable for what happens in the street or in public parking lots.

Until then Merrill Lynches & Co., , there is far MORE evidence that you are racists than the Last Call poses a greater threat to your lily white progressive blue county in a sea of red states than all the other bars I have mentioned. You all are pathetic.

Sigmund 7 years, 1 month ago

New Bumper Sticker: Lawrence, As Bigoted As You Think!

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