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New owner shapes up troubled nightclub location

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - What's left of the former Impulse nightclub at 205 Capitol St. isn't much to be excited about.

Debris is scattered throughout, and a layer of dust sits on the floors and what fixtures are left.

With little light from the front door and a handful of fixtures, much of the black- and blue-painted interior is hard to see.

The interior includes two levels. The first is a more open area, with most of the room open to a high ceiling. Bathrooms, also dark and dimly lit, are in the very back of the building. A staircase near the back of the old dance floor wraps around the back wall of the main club area, leading to a loft that was once intended to be a VIP lounge.

Come Sept. 1, the dark interior of the infamous nightclub will have undergone an about-face, both in decor and purpose.

Jeff Charles, owner of the iFITT24 gym in the Ashton Place shopping center, plans to open a second location downtown in the space that Impulse used to occupy.

The walls will be painted bright, vivid colors, and new lighting will be added throughout the building. Treadmills will take the place of one of the bars, and a strength training and free weight area will be where a dance floor once stood. The dingy bathrooms will be renovated into clean locker rooms and shower areas.  

"People are very excited about it," said owner Charles, a native of the Cayman Islands who recently became a U.S. citizen.

Since starting renovations three weeks ago, Charles and his staff have removed both bars and hauled out a large chunk of the debris left by the club. Several walls will be removed before new fixtures are installed.

The gym will be open 24 hours a day, just like the Ashton Place location. Members use a pass code to gain entry when staff members aren't on site.  

The gym's downtown spot will feature even more amenities than the one at Ashton Place because of the larger floor space. Charles said he plans to have a sauna, smoothie bar, tanning beds, a lounge area with wireless Internet and more showers and locker room space.

"It's a really nice big, open space," he said of the building.

The gym will begin a pre-opening registration special beginning today. The first 100 new customers who become members will receive a discounted membership fee and can use the Ashton Place gym free of charge until the new gym opens. Once iFITT24 opens on Capitol Street, members at both gyms can use either facility.

IFITT24 staff will be on-site through the remainder of the week from about 8 a.m. until 6 or 7 p.m. That schedule will continue as time permits until the gym opens. Gym membership also includes discounts at local businesses as part of the gym's perks program.

When iFITT24 opens, its presence may mark a turning point for the notorious address.

The now-infamous Impulse nightclub opened in 2007 and closed in February when the club's owner voluntarily surrendered its liquor license after a stabbing occurred inside the bar.

That incident wasn't the first to give Impulse unwanted attention. In 2012, a fight that broke out in the bar spilled onto Capitol Street, grew to involve 20 people and resulted in a large window at Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream begin shattered.

In 2011, another large melee started in the bar and moved outside to Capitol Street. And not even a year after Impulse opened, in 2008, a security guard working at the club was shot in the leg.

Before Impulse, Banana Joe's operated at the spot from 2003 to 2006. That bar was the site of fights, crimes involving guns and a taping of "Girls Gone Wild" that was heavily criticized by city officials.

"It's been a troubled spot forever," Charles said.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who criticized both Impulse and Banana Joe's when those places existed, said the gym was a good change for downtown. After the stabbing incident at Impulse in December 2012, Jones called the nightclub a "crime factory" from the city's perspective.

"(The gym) is a totally different kind of business," he said. "It will create activity and commerce that would be a plus to the area."

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.



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