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Archive for Thursday, February 14, 2008

City puts nightclub talks on fast track

Leaders urgently seeking ways to shut down problem bars

February 14, 2008

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Sherise Spears, 20, Topeka, reads the charges against her during her first appearance Wednesday at the courtroom inside the Douglas County Jail. Spears was charged with aiding and abetting an aggravated battery for a shooting Sunday morning shooting at Last Call. Sonda M. Washington was charged with aiding a felon.

Sherise Spears, 20, Topeka, reads the charges against her during her first appearance Wednesday at the courtroom inside the Douglas County Jail. Spears was charged with aiding and abetting an aggravated battery for a shooting Sunday morning shooting at Last Call. Sonda M. Washington was charged with aiding a felon.

City to reevaluate entertainment licensing

Changes could be in store for the way the city of Lawrence regulates bars and nightclubs. City commissioners are set to discuss new licensing requirements for bars when they meet next week. Enlarge video

Two women charged in Last Call shooting

Felony charges are filed today against two Topeka women for aiding a man who fired several gunshots early Sunday outside Last Call. Enlarge video

City proposals

Read the proposals for a new entertainment licensing system that city commissioners previously rejected in March:

If city commissioners want to pass new licensing requirements for Lawrence nightclubs following last Sunday's shooting outside Last Call, they'll have to do so over concerns from the city's bar industry.

"Before we consider new legislation that would affect all the honest folks who work in the Lawrence hospitality industry, we think the community ought to use all the tools it already has available to it," said Phil Bradley, chief executive of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn., the largest trade group representing bars and nightclubs in Lawrence.

Members of the bar and nightclub industry have long opposed proposals from city staff to create a new system that would require nightclubs, dance clubs, music venues and other similar establishments to receive a special city permit to operate. But it was unclear whether bar and nightclub owners would continue to express concern following a shooting about 3 a.m. Sunday outside Last Call that left two employees of the club and a 15-year old patron wounded.

On Wednesday, felony charges were filed against two Topeka women for aiding the Last Call gunman, who was still at large Wednesday afternoon. Lawrence police said both women were in the car with the gunman. They were arrested Tuesday and taken to the Douglas County Jail.

Sherise Spears, 20, was charged with aiding and abetting an aggravated battery. During her first appearance in Douglas County, District Judge Pro Tem Peggy Kittel set Spears' bond at $30,000.

A charge of aiding a felon was filed against Sonda M. Washington, 30. Kittel set her bond at $15,000.

Both women are to appear in court again today so their preliminary hearings can be scheduled.

Fast-tracking the debate

City leaders confirmed Wednesday that they plan to start debating the merits of a new bar licensing system at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

"I want downtown safety issues to take precedence over anything we have on the agenda next week," Mayor Sue Hack said.

City Manager David Corliss said the commission will be briefed on at least two proposals. One, an "entertainment venue" license, would apply to businesses that, for example, charge a cover charge, host live music or operate dance floors. Currently, no license is needed - except for a state liquor license, if the business serves alcohol. City staff members have expressed concern that the state licensing system gives the city very little ability to influence the behavior of bar and nightclub owners.

A second proposal would change the city's zoning laws to require bars either citywide or in areas designated by the commission to receive a special-use permit from the city. Commissioners previously had declined to adopt either proposal.

But that was prior to the latest incident at Last Call, 729 N.H.

"In the past, we have recommended that the commission adopt both of these measures," Corliss said. "But one of the things the commission needs to decide is whether its focus is on the one current establishment, or whether there's concern this issue will replicate itself somewhere else in the community in the future."

Bradley - whose organization condemned "the violence of the individuals" in the early-morning shooting - wants the city to work with Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson to file a public nuisance charge against Last Call and its owner, Dennis Steffes.

He said he's disappointed the city is considering far-reaching regulations that potentially would put the future operations of bar and nightclubs into the hands of a political body.

"Until we've tried all the tools, I don't know how we can say they won't work," Bradley said.

Nuisance laws

Some communities have used the state nuisance law to shut down problem drinking establishments. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wyandotte County used the public nuisance law as a tool to shut down four Kansas City, Kan., strip clubs that had a history of trouble.

Undercover police officers went into the clubs repeatedly to record violations they witnessed, former district attorney Nick Tomasic said. An FBI agent wore a hidden camera into the establishments, Tomasic said.

Among violations were illegal sex and drug activities, Tomasic said.

Police also got a search warrant and obtained business records. They found tax violations. They found liquor law violations. State liquor licenses were withdrawn.

"We built up a lot of violations on them," Tomasic, now retired, said. "We were able to show the patterns of their actions and that they were a nuisance to the public, that there was a history of calls for police assistance."

The city has conducted some undercover investigations inside Last Call, police said during a recent hearing before the state's Alcohol Beverage Control division.

Branson has said he has requested all reports on the operations of the Last Call and is reviewing possible charges that could be filed against the club. He was unable to provide an update on the status of that review Wednesday.

Corliss said a public nuisance charge may be appropriate in the Last Call matter, but he predicted it likely would produce a long legal battle. He also sought to assure members of the city's hospitality industry they would be treated fairly under any new licensing system.

"We understand that a fine balance must be struck," Corliss said. "But almost every law on our books is written not because of the conduct of the majority but the conduct of a few people."

Staff writer Mike Belt contributed to this report.

Comments

Jeff Goodrick 6 years, 10 months ago

Looks like the price of beer is going up.

rlmtyco 6 years, 10 months ago

she has a look on her face like "too many big words" LOL

TheLawrenceFox 6 years, 10 months ago

Any relation to Britany Spears? They seem to be getting into about the same trouble...

BalkansHawk 6 years, 10 months ago

Wy do I get the feeling after reading this article that Corliss and Company are trying to slide this entertainment license by the public? Do they really believe that the public outcry on this series of events justifies them reintroducing this proposal instead of going full steam ahead with laws that are already in place. Scared of a long legal battle? Sounds more like, "Naw, let's try passing this entertainment license again. Surely we can get one of them to go through."

hockmano 6 years, 10 months ago

"Some communities have used the state nuisance law to shut down problem drinking establishments. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wyandotte County used the public nuisance law as a tool to shut down four Kansas City, Kan., strip clubs that had a history of trouble."

Yeah right! I used to live there.The truth is they got on their high horse and did a "Naughty but Nice " tyrade!

Baille 6 years, 10 months ago

"City staff members have expressed concern that the state licensing system gives the city very little ability to influence the behavior of bar and nightclub owners."

Which is just the way it should be. Giving bureaucrats like Corliss this type of power will do nothing more than invite misuse and abuse. The proposed legislation will do nothing more than contribute to the stagnation of downtown.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 10 months ago

5 of the first 13 comments make fun of the people in the pictures. I guess they'll set the tone for any discussion here. Too bad.


Nuisance laws are on the books. Use those and attack the source of the immediate problem. Once that's done, Then carefully research any proposed regulations instead of passing something kneejerk that will have far-reaching, unforseen effects.


I'm me. Who are you behind you hood of anonymity?

booze_buds_03 6 years, 10 months ago

Correct Ralph you are the biggest bad ass on her for not being anonymous. Congrats, go celebrate today.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 10 months ago

booze_buds_03 (Anonymous) writes: "Correct Ralph you are the biggest bad ass on her for not being anonymous. Congrats, go celebrate today."


Why thank you. That's because I'm not afraid of being held accountable like others that post on the LJW forum?


I'm me. Who are you behind you hood of anonymity?

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 10 months ago

Corliss,

Wake up! You want to avoid a long legal battle with the public nuisance law but what do you think will happen with the entertainment license? The first place that has their entertainment license revoked is going to create a long legal battle. Plus, an entertainment license is going to take months to implement.

The only way to stop these people from coming to town is to make them feel unwelcome.

Abe & Jakes is now going to get these people Fridays. Club Axis will have them Sat..

And I pray there is never a gun shot inside the city owned property of Abe & Jakes. The bottleneck entrance/exit will cause someone to be crushed and no entertainment license will save them.

ontheotherhand 6 years, 10 months ago

Just ignore them, Ralph. When I read their comments, I immediately thought "Hmm, comments this obnoxious must be written by unattractive and slightly overweight people who wonder--along with their Church friends--why people just seem to be getting meaner and meaner these days." For these people, I suppose there is empowerment in being anonymous.

Have you ever noticed how good-looking people almost never make demeaning comments about another person's looks? Hmmm . . . . . .

rumor_man 6 years, 10 months ago

I'd use the term "white trash", but it just doesn't make since in this case.

loki8025 6 years, 10 months ago

The parking lot next to the Last Call should be made into a "Boot Hill" There could be some extra tourist money in it. Tours of the Quantrils Raiders, tours of the last call. Should change it's name to Last Stand.I would be more worried about another future victims lawsuit against the city for sitting on their arses and letting this deadly game to go on and on. It won't stop. I feel like I am in Topeka!!WORSE How about hanging down by the Colgate plant in KC!

oldvet 6 years, 10 months ago

"Have you ever noticed how good-looking people almost never make demeaning comments about another person's looks? Hmmm : . . ."

You must be home-bound for many years, because the good looking, in-crowd starts picking on and criticizing the others in grade school and it just continues on through junior high, then high school, then college, and then into the workplace and social gatherings everywhere. You're kidding yourself...

OnlyTheOne 6 years, 10 months ago

Balkanshawk congratulations you've seen through the disguise but you're one of only a VERY few!

Baille 6 years, 10 months ago

"Who are you behind you hood of anonymity?"

Publius with delusions de minimis.

SoupBone 6 years, 10 months ago

I'd love to have credit card slots on the parking meters! Great idea!

Thanks.

akt2 6 years, 10 months ago

They probably ought to just go ahead and set up a triage tent in the parking lot next to the bar. It will save the medics some time.

Bladerunner 6 years, 10 months ago

Such ugly attitudes from so many. All were missing is the latest conspiracy theory about the LPD from Smitty.

BigPrune 6 years, 10 months ago

Now I understand why the beautiful people want that place closed down. If I were the City Manager, this is how I would handle the situation:

Rerun has been out of work for awhile. Have that guy do some public service announcements about our downtown, and get Mr. T to do some promotional ads for the T bus. It doesn't matter only 5% of Lawrence's population is black. We are a multicultural community. Fire off an apology to Topeka - tell them we still want their business. Tell them this little episode is a minor setback, an isolated incident, in a few months no one will remember. Start running these ads in the Topeka Capital Journal and get me some interviews on Cable 6 affilliate Topeka's Channel 49.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

"Who are you behind you hood of anonymity?" Bulldog Drummond

ontheotherhand 6 years, 10 months ago

Oldvet, you are probably right. I'm depressed now.

justthefacts 6 years, 10 months ago

The legal staff for the city needs to fully advise the commission on the problem there will be with trying to impose new rules on an old business. It is quite likely that due to constitutional impediments, businesses such as LC will have to be "grandfathered" into the scheme (meaning they won't have to comply with new rules). SO trying to take care of an old problem with a new licensing idea will not fly (if they take it to court).

Use the rules on the books now - that is legal and will work!

johnwoods 6 years, 10 months ago

I am disappointed in Dave Corliss also. I was concerned when the commission picked him from the start because I thought we need some new, fresh views in City Hall instead of more of the same that we had before with Wildgen.

Oh..I thought Rerun was dead.

BrianR 6 years, 10 months ago

With the entertainment license and the right commission, maybe friends (donors) can use it to get competitors shut down?

Baille 6 years, 10 months ago

"I wonder how the insurance carrier is looking at this?"

Not at all - or under a reservation of right. Wonder how the insurance carrier of Kohl's is looking at the carjacking?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Phil Bradley is right on the money. City Commissioners perhaps have been procrastinating in hopes the state would do the job for them. It's more than evident the citizens would stand behind the city in shutting down Last Call and probably Club 504(?) in North Lawrence.

If necessary amend the nuisance law to make it work for any situation. Allowing Last Call to remain open no matter what is setting a rather dangerous precedent!

I say shut the place down and/or seek a temporary court injunction to keep the place closed down until the matter is settled.... meaning no more Last Call.

A 15 year old in the place in spite of all of the bad publicity is a sign the owner does not give a damn.

You'd think the mayor would take the advice of her good friend Phil Bradley simply because he is correct.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Fast track...... how many years has this been going on?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 years, 10 months ago

Well, it's almost the weekend again. I wonder what will happen this weekend? Steffes be open again tomorrow night, right? Maybe the police should check the club for the guy they're looking for at the club. He'd probably have the audacity to go back to the scene of the crime, or the stupidity. Will the police be willing to get a warrant to search for this guy?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 years, 10 months ago

I finally heard from a commissioner, Boog and Corliss. They say we need a permit, and they're concerned for the safety of anyone protesting the club. They will be discussing the situation this Tuesday, but I can't make it because I have to work the clock at a BB game. I am still going to be at Aimee's tomorrow, if anyone wants to come and discuss what we can legally do as citizens to get rid of this blight on our community.

iplaysupernintendo 6 years, 10 months ago

I am so happy L.C. is going to close. As I've said in other forums, I work and live in downtown and this place has honestly kept me off of that block after 9pm. I miss Java Break!

justthefacts 6 years, 10 months ago

It will be interesting to see if the city officials now back off their licensing scheme, or not. What they decide to do will be evidence of their true motives; close a p;roblem location or regulate all businesses (for reasons other then they are presenting similar problems).

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