Archive for Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend shooting outside Club Axis has owner looking for solutions and city seeking answers

A Lawrence bar owner claims his club is being wrongly targeted. Police have connected several violent incidents to Club Axis, including the city's latest shooting.

March 30, 2009, 5:25 p.m. Updated March 30, 2009, 8:04 p.m.


On the street

Are you concerned about the recent wave of violence in Lawrence?

I’m not overly concerned because it’s still a small town.

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A celebration marking the two year anniversary of Club Axis ended negatively early Sunday morning when a 25-year-old Lawrence man was shot in the parking lot of the bar, 821 Iowa.

“Anytime something like this happens, it’s not good for business … or the community,” said Christopher Windler, bar owner. “We feel pretty bad about it.”

Lawrence police have connected several incidents of violence to the bar over the last two years, including a double stabbing, an attack on a police officer and a brawl, all of which occurred after patrons left the establishment.

Windler said the events are being blown out of proportion and that his bar is being unfairly labeled, leading people to refer to it as “the new Last Call.”

“Our crowd is nothing like Last Call,” said Windler, in reference to The Last Call, a bar that vacated its location at 729 N.H., after three people were shot and injured outside the nightclub. That followed an incident during which seven shots were fired inside the club, although no one was injured.

Windler said a negative stereotype has been placed on the bar since Kansas University basketball player J.R. Giddens was stabbed there in May 2005 during a fight, when the establishment was called Moon Bar and under different ownership.

“We get a lot of negative publicity,” said Windler. “Since day one, it’s been a fight.”

Club Axis is associated with hip hop music and has a mostly-clean cut, diverse crowd, Windler said. He blames the incidents connected to his bar on a few individuals who ruin it for everyone. Now, he’s hopeful they won’t ruin the future of his business.

The violent incidents stemming from the bar have caught city leaders’ attention.

“We need to hold people accountable and make sure what goes on inside doesn’t spill to the outside,” said Mike Dever, Lawrence mayor.

While the city has no authority to take action against bars they find problematic, commissioners could seek to change that, said David Corliss, city manager.

The state’s Alcohol Beverage Control bureau has authority over bar liquor licenses and can consider incidents happening inside a bar when determining whether to revoke the license, Corliss said.

“I don’t think that’s satisfactory,” the city manager said. “I think that we need to change the law so that we can use incidents that occur outside of the establishment to consider revocation of a license.”

Corliss said the city is lobbying state lawmakers to change ABC’s rules, by also including incidents outside of bars when renewing licenses.

He said city commissioners could also look at establishing a local public assembly ordinance, which would regulate occupancy levels for establishments. Depending on how city law was structured, clubs wouldn’t be able to operate unless they have a license approved by commissioners.

While Windler admits he is “nervous” that he could one day lose his right to operate, he said he’s looking to make changes as he fights against negative publicity.

“We just have to figure out how we’re going to restructure to make everybody safe,” Windler said.

While the bar owner said it would be ideal for police officers to be positioned at Club Axis during closing time on a busy night, Corliss said the city doesn’t have the resources to make that happen.

Corliss said additional resources would be added to the streets, when 13 officers graduate from the department’s academy April 10.


spankyandcranky 8 years, 10 months ago

If you look at any bar in town that's open till 2AM, you're going to find that fights occur, and sometimes that means someone is going to pull a weapon out and use it. Last Call had metal detectors, but still had problems. People can come into a bar -- or any other establishment angry and/or on drugs. I don't think that has anything to do with a liquor license, and I don't think revoking licenses is going to solve Lawrence's crime problems -- small as they may seem in comparison to larger cities.

Danimal 8 years, 10 months ago

Even if we close down Club Axis, all the thuggy-types will find some other local club to frequent. Maybe if the city started fining establishments for disturbances the police have to respond to these places would keep a little tighter reigns on their clientele. I think that one solution might be to ban dollar nights or ticket nights within our city limits. Or maybe the city should revive the entertainment license for clubs and venues over a certain occupancy?

lawrencegrl 8 years, 10 months ago

Would it help to allow off duty law enforement officers to work as security in clubs? I don't think police officers are able to work at bars & clubs at this time. It seems that could help with any issue that might come up at a club. Officers are trained to identify problems before they happen.

mapletree 8 years, 10 months ago

If the city is serious about trying to control some of the problems in this town, the first step would be finding some additional funding for the police department and adding more officers. LPD does a great job, but there simply aren't enough of them. I realize budgets are tight, but maybe we need to re-examine our priorities. Adding more regulations to business owners isn't the answer.

somebodynew 8 years, 10 months ago

And to me, once again Corliss is spouting BS. The city has ordinances on the books, but refuse to go after the problems. Now the ordinances may not be strong enough, but don't try to push this off on the State. I understand (not agree with) some of the downtown bars saying they should't be held accountable for what happens outside, but I still go back to - if the people causing problems are there "only" for the bar, the bar shoulders some blame.

And lawrencegrl, you are absolutly correct in that off duty officers cannot work where alcohol is served. And to tell you the truth, that would present a "sticky" situation on several fronts if that were to change. Particularly at Axis, not all of the parking is actually on their property. So, do the off-duty (working private) get to go onto other property ?? And if something does start, when do they go from off-duty to on-duty??? And when is the City liable for their actions, or even have to pay worker's comp if one gets hurt by taking action??? Too many variables.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 10 months ago

I agree something has to be done, but how do you hold a business accountable for what happens off its premise. The shooter at the Hawk was never in the bar that night, so should they be held accountable? That is like saying a homeowner is responsible for any car accidents that happen on their street...

Lawrence police and the DA need to throw the books at anyone fighting, carrying firearms, weapons, etc... If people knew the City of the Lawrence was strict on any mischief, they would think twice before coming here and doing anything illegal.

somebodynew 8 years, 10 months ago

f_s, I don't know if this is accurate, but I remember reading somewhere that he had been in the Hawk. Something about the Martini Room (whatever that is - I haven't been there in decades). Your main point is right on - IF people actually faced serious time for this stuff, it might send a message.

flyin_squirrel 8 years, 10 months ago

From what I have been told by students who work at the Hawk, he was never in the Hawk.

sassypants 8 years, 10 months ago

Bar owners should also be held responsible for what happens outside their bar, even after closing time. Why can't/don't they hire extra staff to patrol outside of their bars? I think there needs to be some heavy duty consideration on this part for new license regulations. And I don't think the LPD should have to patrol the bars. LPD didn't invite the clientele, the bar owners did.

webmocker 8 years, 10 months ago

"“We get a lot of negative publicity,” said Windler. “Since day one, it’s been a fight.”

A knife fight, a fist fight, a gun fight....

doc1 8 years, 10 months ago

They forgot to report on the two Homicides that have taken place outside our city stemming from incidents that occured at Axis.

lawthing 8 years, 10 months ago

Let Corliss change the law & shut down the bar!

Then let Branson take the case so he can expect prison time for the perps with a gun!

Then after everythings done let the Judge give them Probation! Probation!....Because after all they are nice boys!

HermioneElliott 8 years, 10 months ago

No, let us not close down all the bars in Lawrence. I have this image of righteous citizens with pitchforks storming the place. There has to be a little bit of prejudice here for people to feel so free to vent so much anger. What number of people, students and otherwise, went to bars the past month, and nothing happened? I say we assign blame to the one who actually commits the crime. Not everyone within a six block radius.

lawdog 8 years, 10 months ago

I still love living here as opposed to KCK.

beawolf 8 years, 10 months ago

I saw a fight outside the Free State Brewery. Close it down.

beawolf 8 years, 10 months ago

2 people were shouting at each other outside of the Eldridge. Close it down.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 10 months ago

I thought we defeated the Axis in 1945.

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