Attorneys for the city and Club Axis, a controversial Lawrence nightclub, are scheduled to meet Friday to debate the club’s future.
A hearing is scheduled in Douglas County District Court to consider a request by the city to find the owners and operators of the club in contempt of court. The city says the club is ignoring a judge’s order.
In December, Judge Michael Malone ruled that the business at 821 Iowa — more recently referred to as 821 Club — violated city law by operating as a nightclub instead of a bar, and should not do so without filing a new site plan with the city.
The city said the establishment, prior to opening as Club Axis, operated as a bar, known as Moon Bar. The city said Club Axis became a nightclub when it changed its layout, allowed more people inside and offered music for dancing — all without filing a new site plan.
After a recent shooting outside the club, the city filed a motion in the case, asking the court to take action because the establishment has continued to operate as a nightclub without filing the new site plan. The lawsuit named Christopher Windler, Fred Windler, Qing Ling Wang and Xin Li Liu as defendants.
Brian Johnson, an attorney representing the club’s owners and operators, said the city was grasping at straws. Johnson equates the action against Club Axis to the city’s efforts to shut down Last Call, 729 N.H., which closed in 2008 after violence outside the club.
“The city, fresh off of their previous conquests here in town … feels quite emboldened that if they find another proprietor that they personally disagree with, that they can use some muscle to get them to shut down,” Johnson said. “The only problem in this case is their basis lacks any legal support or factual support.”
Lawrence police have connected the establishment on Iowa to multiple shootings and stabbings over the years, including the May 2005 stabbing of former Kansas University basketball player J.R. Giddens.
The building housed the Moon Bar from May 2003 until it closed in late 2005. The establishment reopened in March 2007 as Club Axis. Since then, police said, a 25-year-old was shot in March 2009 in the parking lot of the bar and a Topeka teenager was wounded during a July 5 shooting outside the club. The current owners claim the violence has been wrongly connected to the club.
Johnson said he does not anticipate the city will be successful in shutting down Club Axis, which would be the ultimate result if Malone ruled in favor of the city.
“The legal process has to run its course,” Johnson said. “They don’t have any basis to shut down my client.”