Archive for Thursday, February 14, 2008

Owner pulls plug on Last Call

Suspect identified in shooting that injured 3 at downtown club

February 14, 2008

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Last Call to shut down

A downtown nightclub at the center of a controversy following a weekend shooting will be closing its doors. Enlarge video

Police issue arrest warrant in Last Call shooting

Lawrence police have a felony arrest warrant out for 26-year-old Carlos Jerome Jackson of Topeka, the man suspected of pulling the trigger in this weekend's shooting at Last Call. Enlarge video

The owner of the downtown nightclub Last Call said Thursday he was closing the business after a shooting last weekend.

Both club owner Dennis Steffes and his attorney Dan Owen said the shooting that injured three people was an intolerable event that forced Steffes to rethink the club's future.

"He was extremely shocked and unhappy about what happened over the weekend," Owen said of Steffes. "He wants to continue to live in Lawrence and be a responsible member of the community. He understands that safety and peace of mind in the community has to come first."

Steffes' decision to close the controversial hip-hop club comes the same day that the Lawrence Police Department identified Carlos Jerome Jackson, 26, Topeka, as a suspect in the shooting. Police are asking anyone with information about the whereabouts of Jackson - who, when he was 17, was convicted in the shooting death of a Topeka man in 1998 - to call CrimeStoppers at 843-TIPS.

Meanwhile, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Thursday night that his office is contemplating both civil and criminal action against the Park Hetzel III Trust, which owns the building in which Last Call has operated.

Branson said he would send a letter today to the owner that police notified his office that illegal activity - permitting patrons to consume alcohol they brought in exchange for paying a cover charge - was occurring at the property. That would be a criminal misdemeanor violation of liquor laws, punishable by a jail term of up to six months, and a fine of up to $200, the district attorney said.

Further, civil charges could be filed, Branson said, for habitual violations of drug laws in the building. If found guilty, the owners could be subject to closure for up to two years, forfeiture and sale of the property, or a civil penalty of up $25,000.

Branson said he was aware of Steffes' plans to close the business.

"He's promised to do different things before," Branson said. "Until we're positive he's out, we're going forward."

Building's future

Steffes, who leases the club's building at 729 N.H., did not rule out having another business at the location in the future. But he pledged he would work with city leaders on determining what that use should be.

"I have closed the business down until such time that an appropriate use can be found for that location which best serves the needs of our downtown Lawrence and meets the approval of our city officials," Steffes said in a written statement.

Mayor Sue Hack welcomed the news that the business would close.

"We don't have to worry about something similar happening at that location next weekend, and that is a relief," Hack said.

But Hack said she planned for the commission to continue with its scheduled discussion of creating a new entertainment licensing system for bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues in the city. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss an entertainment licensing system and changes to the city's zoning law in regard to bars at Tuesday's meeting. She said the licensing system would put the city in a better position to more quickly deal with problem establishments.

The closing of Last Call ends a contentious chapter in downtown's history. The club sparked serious concern by city commissioners after seven gunshots were fired inside the business in May 2006. That incident sent hundreds spilling into the streets, although no one was shot.

Following that incident, Steffes beefed up security at the club and added metal detectors. But Sunday morning's incident involved a gunman immediately outside the club who fired upon individuals - two club employees and a 15-year-old patron - who were outside the business.

Guns outside the club have been a problem. More than a dozen guns - including assault-style weapons - have been seized from cars in city parking lots near the club.

Concerns about violence and illegal drug use inside the club prompted state regulators to deny the renewal of Last Call's liquor license in December. Since then, Steffes had been operating the establishment as a bring-your-own-alcohol business.

Owen said Steffes still believes the club's liquor license was wrongly denied. But efforts to have it immediately restored have been halted, and it is uncertain whether any part of the appeal of regulators' ruling will continue, he said.

When reached by phone, Steffes said he did not want to comment beyond the written statement that he provided to the Journal-World. Steffes has been criticized by some - praised by others - for operating a hip-hop club downtown. Whether hip-hop ever would be a part of his future again, Steffes said he didn't want to discuss it. But he did say he wanted to make it clear that he has no desire to run a business that increases the likelihood of violence in downtown.

"I denounce the violence that occurred there last Sunday morning, and I will not allow people who can commit such acts to be part of our business," Steffes said.

Shooting suspect

Police are continuing their efforts to find Carlos Jerome Jackson, who has a history of violence, according to court records. Jackson was convicted nine years ago of felony first-degree murder in Shawnee County. The conviction stemmed from the shooting death of 24-year-old Dennis R. Campbell, Topeka. Topeka police said Campbell was shot after a deal involving marijuana turned into an attempted robbery.

Jackson also was convicted of aggravated robbery. He was 17 when he was sentenced to a correctional facility. Because of a law that allowed him to be sentenced as a juvenile and an adult, he was held until he was 23, Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht said. Normally someone convicted in juvenile court is held until age 21.

Jackson also currently has drug charges pending against him in Shawnee County, Hecht said. They include possession of narcotics with intent to sell and not having a drug tax stamp.

Lawrence police are asking the public's help in finding Jackson. He is described as a black man who is 5 feet 11 inches and 160 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

6News reporter Janet Reid contributed information to this report.

Comments

BalkansHawk 7 years, 5 months ago

BYOB club illegal? I am with BigPrune on this one. I don't recall this being brought up before. If there is some legal issues regarding BYOB with a cover fee, why are we just now hearing about it?

Oh, and by the way, here comes the back door burgler.

"But Hack said she planned for the commission to continue with its scheduled discussion of creating a new entertainment licensing system for bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues in the city."

Zype 7 years, 5 months ago

These days, there's almost no such thing as a keg party that doesn't charge money for access to the keg.

When was the last time you partied?

infidel785 7 years, 5 months ago

BYOB would be illegal if you charge a cover charge. It's kinda like having a keg party and charging money for access to the keg. The Outhouse falls under a different type of license. I believe they have an entertainment license that would allow them to operate as BYOB and charge a cover.

Technically, to operate as a private club, Last Call would have to send out invitations to people. It's all really quite complicated

Steffes just pissed off a whole lot of people on this one. What does it feel like to have everyone against you? From the way things sound, he is back peddling like crazy to try and save face.

TheLawrenceFox 7 years, 5 months ago

Frickin SLIME BALL. May his grandchildren know nothing more of him than his crimes against fellow humans.

I hope the impending civil action suits against him force further mental incompacity and eventual inability to fight off the men who will rape him in prison.

My thoughts and prayers to the victims of the latest shooting and all that have been terrorized by this vat of feces.

The NAACP should also file suit for the reprehensible use of Jheri Curl by this cracker.

Shame upon him.

Shame!

The_Voice_of_Reason 7 years, 5 months ago

"Jackson was convicted nine years ago of felony first-degree murder in Shawnee County" Isn't that the kinda crime you go way for 25 to life for? What the heck is a convicted murderer doing out of prison??? Sure he was a minor but seriously!

nobody1793 7 years, 5 months ago

"I denounce the violence that occurred there last Sunday morning, and I will not allow people who can commit such acts to be part of our business," Steffes said.

Sounds like someone's running for City Komission next year... I've never voted against a bald man with a pony-tail in the past, so why should I start now?!

Please don't answer that.

BigPrune 7 years, 5 months ago

"permitting patrons to consume alcohol they brought in exchange for paying a cover charge" - since when was that illegal? I've heard The Outhouse does the same thing, but it is in the county. I recall a clothing optional bar off 23rd Street did the exact same thing, except the patrons were allowed to disrobe completely if they wanted.

Was this law changed since the bring your own beer and be nude bar closed down? I can't remember its name.

Michael Capra 7 years, 5 months ago

gradma got to him and pulled that can of whoop ass out and dennis ran and cried, I am willing to talk now

Nikki May 7 years, 5 months ago

zype, technically, at a party if you charge for the keg you can be fined for selling alcohol without a liquor license. Most people will charge for the cup or just admission.

Baille 7 years, 5 months ago

"BYOB would be illegal if you charge a cover charge. It's kinda like having a keg party and charging money for access to the keg."

Analogy is faulty. It is like charging a cover for access to a room. Whether you bring your own keg or not is up to you. No alcohol was provided by the one charging the cover, the one who leased the room, or the one who owned the structure in which the room was located.

ksmax 7 years, 5 months ago

WOW I had never seen a pic of this guy, he looks like a slime ball. I am not one to judge people on looks, but this one is a given! Thank god this place is closed down now.

busymom 7 years, 5 months ago

My thoughts exactly voice of reason. He shot someone at age 17, why wasn't he still in jail? 17 year olds are old enough to know that shooting someone is illegal and wrong (well apparently he still doesn't know it at 26)

Ragingbear 7 years, 5 months ago

Cue worlds smallest violin...

Perhaps if he had actually addressed the issue instead of just token efforts, none of this would have happened. It's a basic rule of business, dead people are bad for business. Simple concept, but this guy didn't get it. He should work in politics.

Deb Stavin 7 years, 5 months ago

Infidel785:

He's back pedaling...so he can come back peddling! :-)

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

At this juncture the City Commission is equally as responsible as Steffes and the property owners all for their delay in doing the right thing in a more timely fashion.

Remember Dave Corliss stating the City Commission directed they did not want to proceed in taking measures that might have closed down the operation.

Chad Lawhorn : Did this direction come from the Mayor or the entire commission ? How and why did the commission in deed come to the conclusion it was not necessary to proceed? I do not recall any public statement given for halting the proceedings.

Chad Lawhorn: Could you interview each commissioner as to their positions on NOT proceeding? Why the procrastination over the years? Why did it need to wait until a gangland type shooting occured?

jayhawkbarrister 7 years, 5 months ago

The issue that a number of posters raised about why someone, who committed a serious crime is not still confined nine years later, is best addressed to the Legislature. When confronted with wanting to be "tough on crime" but unwilling to accept that one of the results of such a position is that you are going to have to build more prisons (and that may mean a tax increase), we got snowed. We got a lot of 'tough on crime" speeches, but they added in fine print loopholes to reduce the number of necessary prison beds so that there would not need to be such expenditures and a tax increase. Remember: it is an article of faith in the Legislature that you must be very good at 3-card Monty.

If you are upset to find a convicted murderer out nine years later, focus your anger at the appropriate target. It's the tall, green-roofed building with the statute on top in the middle of downtown Topeka.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

Should all in the entertainment business be subject to new licensing or is it possible to amend current city ordinances to meet the demand? No law is worth a hoot if it is not enforced.

domino 7 years, 5 months ago

If I remember correctly, when a juvinal is charged with a crime as a juvie, their sentence can be whatever amount of time - however, once they turn 18 they can no longer be held as a juvie and they are let out! Know that happened with two boys 16 & 17 years old that murdered an old man - they were both sentenced to a number of years, but only had to serve time until they were 18 - both of them were out after that. Don't think it's right - just saying how it was.

As far as what Steffes says, if you believe that, I have this beautiful brige that I've been thinking about selling. Please call me!

mmiller 7 years, 5 months ago

So by closing this club we'll see the violence/shootings come to end in Lawrence? We'll never see this happen again at a downtown club? The instigators will not hit up another club????????

SoupBone 7 years, 5 months ago

Good point, mmiller.

Has Lawrence, in fact, become the Wild Frontier for people who are intent on violence? I don't know...just asking. Are the policing strategies different than they are in Topeka or KC? Again, I don't know....just asking.

Will shows at Granada or A&J's now be more likely to be attended by violent offenders?

Will somebody else open a similar club?

If somebody wants to open a hip hop club, will their license be denied just because of what happened at LC?

Lots of questions...not many answers.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 5 months ago

well fox let it out don't hold it in. Just a tad harsh and just way to early for such hatred or dislike or waht ever, need coffee later all:)

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 7 years, 5 months ago

Why isn't the DA filing charges against Steffes? Because filing charges against the owner of a building will have much farther reaching consequences. Who is going to lease there building to an operation like this if they have to fear going to jail or having their building taken away?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years, 5 months ago

If the hip-hop crowd moves to Club Axis to have a good time and dance, they are more than welcome. If they come there for violence they will get harassed over and over. Or isn't that called enforcing the law? Pudgy1, if you know some of this hip-hop crowd tell them to leave their weapons and attitudes home when they come to Lawrence. They might find out what real fun is.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 5 months ago

well just a thought on my part, but now that last call is closed what is to prevent these same bangers from spreading out to the other bars downtown and the same stuff happening at other locations?

formerfarmer 7 years, 5 months ago

Steffes owns Coyotes at 23rd & Haskell. Bet they will start having a Hip-Hop night soon.

infidel785 7 years, 5 months ago

The thugs won't come down here because they have no reason to come here any more. Period, /story

fu7il3 7 years, 5 months ago

Damn. Is it too late to return the torches and pitchforks to Ace Hardware?

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 5 months ago

well infedel only time will tell on that one. Hope that is the case but....

ModSquadGal 7 years, 5 months ago

From the article: "He was extremely shocked and unhappy about what happened over the weekend," Owen said of Steffes. "He wants to continue to live in Lawrence and be a responsible member of the community. He understands that safety and peace of mind in the community has to come first."

Really? So extremely shocked and unhappy that it made him forget that this has happened umpteen times before at his hoodlum bar? When you have to install metal detectors; when your patrons are KNOWN gang members; when they leave your establishment and then go commit crime; when assault weapons are found in the cars of the patrons of your club -- THAT should be when he's schocked and unhappy. Not just at the point where he realizes he might be criminally charged.

Steffes is an idiot. He's never done anything that has proven "he understands that safety and peace of mind in the community has to come first." Give me a break.

And I love this quote: "...he wanted to make it clear that he has no desire to run a business that increases the likelihood of violence in downtown." Not unless it's gonna make him money! If he really gave a s**t, he would have closed the doors a LONG time ago, and his other business endeavors wouldn't be equally as nefarious.

exhawktown 7 years, 5 months ago

So much concern and commenting on Steffes & the business. So little (save for Voice of Reason and Busymom) on the a-hole who shot people--someone who had already had a previous conviction for KILLING someone 9 years ago. Unbelievable. I wonder where the shooter acquired the gun? We should probably find out and go after the gun dealer (though he probably didn't obtain it legally). And while we're at it, who sold him the car? Or was it even his????? Quick! Let's find MORE people to blame for HIS actions!!

exhawktown 7 years, 5 months ago

Whoops. He hasn't been convicted yet. Still. There is apparently someone running around out there who shot and killed someone 9 years ago. Probably several. Comforting.

flyin_squirrel 7 years, 5 months ago

logicsound4, You hit the nail on the head. Until these people feel unwanted, we will continue to have problems at other venues. And an entertainment license is not going to stop violent thugs from coming to town. The police department needs to make Lawrence unattractive to them.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 7 years, 5 months ago

I agree, the gangbangers are coming here to strut their stuff because they know they can't get away with it back home. I suspect the KCMO and Topeka cops don't handle them quite so gingerly, or find excuses to be elsewhere when the shootings and store invasions occur. Although, there haven't been mass invasions of the stores anyplace but Lawrence.

Kontum1972 7 years, 5 months ago

bet the shooter is hangin out in KCMO on Troost.....no mans land..!

Jeremy Lichtenauer 7 years, 5 months ago

Ulrich, are you kidding me?

The past few weeks Lawence has seen a 2nd degree murder, 2 separate car jackings/robberies, a kidnapping, gas station robbery/attempted murder, and a triple shooting/attempted murder - ALL SOLVED!!!!!!!

EXCELLENT JOB!

Bladerunner 7 years, 5 months ago

flyin_squirrel says the police dept needs to make the thugs that come to Lawrence feel unwelcome. How do you suppose they do that? Should they sit at the East turnpike gate and wait for carloads of blacks listening to hip hop music to arrive? Stop and harrass them? That sir ...is called racial profiling and it's illegal.

The whole system is set up to react to problems. Not to prevent them. The Police do not have the tools to do their jobs and to prevent these situations from breaking out. There would have to be far reaching changes for that to happen...and it would be...I believe.....a step backward.

Bladerunner 7 years, 5 months ago

Uhlrick showed his intelligence when he claimed the cops are "too busy feeling up the coeds at a safe bar somewhere else."

Great comment Jeremy! The police are doing a great job!

rachaelisacancer 7 years, 5 months ago

Isn't it going to be hard to provide evidence that people were bringing their own liquor and violating other drug laws after the fact?

If the police had this info and it was worth filing charges over, shouldn't that have happened sometime before the up-teenth person was assaulted, shot, etc.?

Give me a break.

domino 7 years, 5 months ago

logicsound04 et al - maybe you should get off your duffs, get a job with Lawrence PD, spend 14 weeks at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in beautiful downtown Yoder (look it up - it's quite a place) then work the hours/shifts/nights/weekends/holidays they do and you can be the one to put their life on the line every day. Better quit before I really get ticked!

justthefacts 7 years, 5 months ago

Unless this club;'s owners is criminally convicted of something, it is unlikely that city/state authorities can prevent him from re-opening up, here or there, at a later date.

Many people decide to surrender, rather then be prosecuted, hoping (and knowing) that when the furor dies down, they can re-start again. Thus, if the prosecutor decides to not go forward with charges as planned, simply b/c the club is now "closed," it will allow the same person to apply for (and obtain) licenses for future businesses.

This is why many savy administrative law lawyers no longer allow people to surrender a license (absent a written agreement to NEVER ask for another one again, or for an agreed to period of time).

infidel785 7 years, 5 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says: "If the police continue to be at bars at closing time to monitor the crowd and departure, Sue Hack , you and the other commissioners need to get your heads out and start charging these bar owners. Rick's doesnt have 3 police cars sitting around it at closing, even the Crossing didn't. I am not talking about a call made to a dispatcher for a police car, I am talking about babysitting the bars at closing."

----So then, we should charge people more on their taxes if they live in areas that require more police presence? I live o the west side of town where we don't need police that often. Why should I have to pay for them to patrol other neighborhoods? If there are roads that people habitually speed on, do we charge people who live on that road for the increase of police running radar on that road?

Curtis Martell 7 years, 5 months ago

" So much concern and commenting on Steffes & the business. So little (save for Voice of Reason and Busymom) on the a-hole who shot people"

This is some of the only rational discussion on the matter.

I don't understand why anyone would open a bar that caters to the hip hop crowd, but it's free country and music is not illegal no matter how much I don't like it. The bar owner didn't kill anyone or start any fights.

At some point individuals need to be held accountable for their actions and in Lawrence, they are. 2 people in jail and another suspect identified. The bar owner is not in jail.

The problem here is not caused by lack of an entertainment license in Lawrence, or lack of law enforcement, or any ill will on the part of the bar owner but it's a bigger problem in our society.

When we start to see violence like this in our town, everyone gets excited because we aren't used to it and frankly we don't want it. It's easy to turn on the bar owner because he's the only one left in town Monday morning and the only one who falls within the reach of the City Council.

Neither the council, or the bloggers, or the citizens of Lawrence can easily address the real problem - some part of our society has accepted this kind of violence as a normal part of life.

I don't understand the motives of the bar owner for opertating that type of establishment, and I don't agree with the reactionary nature of the councils weak attempt to legislate away the problem. I also don't understand some the ridculous comments made on this forum.

flying squirrels comments are right on. All the city can do is attempt to make the city unattractive for the people intent on breaking the law. Unless we want to live in a police state with spy cameras everywhere, racial profiling etc, the police cannot control what people do. If someone decides to use violence, they will.

George_Braziller 7 years, 5 months ago

The signs on the front of Last Call have been taken down. At LAST it is FINALLY gone!!!! It has been way to long coming.

This weekend I won't have to listen to screaming people at 3:00 in the morning, booming car stereos that rattle the windows in my house, and risk being killed by a stray bullet.

texburgh 7 years, 5 months ago

Steffes is out for a simple reason - he believes that the city will cease efforts to establish an entertainment license if Last Call just goes away. The club owners know that the only real way to deal with owners like Steffes is to shut them down through the entertainment license. The Commission needs to go ahead with the entertainment license. This city needs to be able to shut down establishments that won't or can't control their crowds. Most clubs would stay open; ones like Last Call would be shut down. Let's hope the Commission doesn't chicken out now.

Reid Hollander 7 years, 5 months ago

I forgot about this until just now, but when I used to work door at The Ranch we got wind of someone having a gun in the club. Someone else had seen it in the bathroom and told our manager. He told the bouncers to keep an eye out and we called the cops immediately. As I recall they left an officer and a cruiser there for the rest of the night which wasn't to much of a burden because they usually came around when we were closing anyway. There was no incident that night and we will have no way of knowing if someone actually had a gun. The important thing is that no one was hurt because it was handled responsibly by The Ranch and my manager.

I can't believe I forgot that until just now.

ModSquadGal 7 years, 5 months ago

I do have to agree that the problem does not lie solely with Steffes... the "system" is broken when it lets a murderer out because he turned 18. And the police are ill-equipped to deal with this sort of thing until it happens. They put their lives on the line 24/7 for little more than what most teachers make.

The fault lies with people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Steffes is guilty of this because his "hip hop" club brings in the element that you might expect... criminals. That isn't saying all people who listen to hip hop are criminals, just that it was proven at his club, and he had a RESPONSIBILITY to make it stop long before this.

Back room dealings and slick lawyer talk mean nothing if you end up with a bullet in your back because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time (anywhere in Lawrence, not just Last Call). We NEED to address this problem and make Lawrence a place that does not accept or cater to the unwanted element (be it thugs or homeless people panhandling). We've GOT to stand up for this town and all it means to us.

Do you really want downtown to die just because we were too busy being happy liberals trying to help everyone? (And yes, I am on the liberal side for the most part). You get what you deserve and we are letting people walk all over us by not holding them accountable for their actions.

Wake up!

Godot 7 years, 5 months ago

Hawk has a good idea; downtown could become a theme park called, "Lawrence, what it could have been, if only government had not interefered."

somebodynew 7 years, 5 months ago

from Lawrenceguy "flying squirrels comments are right on. All the city can do is attempt to make the city unattractive for the people intent on breaking the law. Unless we want to live in a police state with spy cameras everywhere, racial profiling etc, the police cannot control what people do. If someone decides to use violence, they will."

The first sentence cannot happen without the second part of your comment. IF you really want the police to make things uncomfortable for the thugs, they have to get a hell of a lot more heavy handed then they currently are allowed. If you are truely a "lawrenceguy" you know what happens in the "community" and on here anytime the police try to make people "uncomfortable" coming to this town. Case in Point - the transients downtown. Do you really think the police would not like to be rid of these people and could probably take care of it - EXCEPT then (by some people) they are uncaring and just not doing things "correctly". Just how many people would be on here crucifying them for trying to make thugs "not welcome". It would not be easy to make thugs go away and a lot of people would roar with disapproval if the police tried (as much as they would like to do that).

JohnDoeLawrence 7 years, 5 months ago

The question I would like answered is why it took so long for Chuck Branson to get involved in this problem. He just sat on the sidelines until it was too late. Now that the place is closing, the DA's acting like a tough guy.

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