Officials scrutinize nightclub following melee
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston officials are considering whether to revoke a downtown bar's license after an altercation there last week led to property damage.
Last Thursday wasn't the first time authorities had been called to handle a disturbance at Impulse Night Club, which is at 205 Capitol St.
"It's teetering," Mayor Danny Jones said. "If we take away their license, they're out of business."
The altercation spilled onto the street and involved as many as 20 people, Deputy Police Chief Jason Beckett said.
"Right now we don't know who it was, but we're investigating," Beckett said.
At some point during the altercation, a large storefront window at Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream was shattered.
Jones said he spoke to Janet Amores, owner of Impulse, and told her she must pay for the repairs at Ellen's.
Amores did not return calls seeking comment, nor did Ellen Beal, owner of the ice cream shop.
Business owners and city officials have put a lot of work into cleaning up Capitol Street and making it what Jones called a "cultural enclave" in Charleston.
"There have been a lot of problems there, and we're not going to let that place ruin Capitol Street," Jones said.
A recording of a brawl in front of the club last May was posted on YouTube, prompting city officials to scrutinize the establishment.
"There's a long history of disturbances and fights there," Beckett said.
The state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration is also aware of last week's altercation and is waiting for Charleston police to conclude an investigation, spokesman Gig Robinson said.
Robinson said the state agency can revoke a business's alcohol license. If that happens, the licensees listed on the document cannot obtain another permit to serve alcohol in the state for five years, he said.
"We expect all of our licensees to do everything they can to keep their businesses safe," Robinson said. "Issues that involve violence are looked at very carefully."
Councilman Bobby Reishman owns a business just down the street from Impulse. Reishman also said he was concerned about the bar.
The South Hills Republican said it appeared the downtown bar was attracting the wrong type of crowd.
"It's too bad, because we need a nightlife downtown," he said.
Reishman said he was doubly concerned because council members recently adopted an outdoor dining ordinance that allows restaurants to serve beer in enclosed dining areas on the public sidewalk.
Troubles with bar patrons could deter people from coming downtown to enjoy a meal and a beer at these outdoor establishments, he said.
City Manager David Molgaard said city leaders have been exploring ways to attract young professionals to Charleston's downtown. The current comprehensive planning process is looking at how housing needs for these young professionals can be met.
"There is, I think, a general consensus that we would like to have more people living downtown and have the area become more of a mixed-use environment," Molgaard said. "And whether or not an establishment like this is compatible with that plan will be an issue for discussion."
Some business owners aren't happy, either.
Ann Saville, owner of Taylor Books, said situations like the one on Thursday are counterproductive to what the city and businesses are trying to do in the Village District.
She said she would bring up the matter with the Charleston Area Alliance.
"The Alliance is looking at ways to bring more people into downtown," she said. "And one way you can do it is to get rid of places where people are fighting and breaking windows."
No arrests have been made, and no injuries were reported, Beckett said.
Officers are stationed outside Impulse on the three nights it is open because of past problems. The bar owner pays the wages for the two officers, an arrangement that is not unusual, he said.
The officers were on hand last Thursday when the altercation spilled onto the street, Beckett said. They were forced to call for backup because of the size of the crowd involved.
"So we had to get officers that were working normal shifts to leave their areas of patrol to come in and help."
Asked why no arrests were made, Beckett said, "The main goal at that point is to get everyone separated and move them down the road.
"But obviously if someone was hurt, then that changes everything and we would have made some arrests," he said.