Officials threaten to close Capitol Street nightclub
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - City officials are threatening to seek closure of a popular downtown nightclub because they say it was the scene of another violent attack.
The bar's owner insists the incident didn't occur inside her establishment.
According to a criminal complaint on file at the city police department, Larry Martin, 23, of Charleston, told police he was stabbed in the neck and back about 2:36 a.m. Sunday while at Impulse Night Club at 205 Capitol St.
Officers who responded also found Joseph Lucas, 27, of Cross Lanes, walking down Capitol Street with blood running from a head wound, according to the report.
But Janet Amores, owner of Impulse, claimed the stabbing happened outside the bar.
When told what the police report said, Amores said, "That's absolutely wrong."
Amores was not at the bar at the time of the incident, but bar manager Robert Parsons was.
Parsons said the incident happened outside, and he accused city officials of singling out Impulse.
"I do think someone in the city is out to close us," Parsons said. "Anytime there's a fight around here, they threaten to close us down, and they don't do that to any other bar in the city."
The state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration temporarily closed Sky Lounge, another Capitol Street bar, in September after three men were shot there. City officials, including Mayor Danny Jones, said at the time they didn't want the ABCA to reinstate the owner's license if she couldn't keep control of her patrons.
Parsons was unsure if the incident began in Impulse and then moved outside to the street. He did say there were men arguing in the bar that night.
"We looked outside and saw this guy had been stabbed," he said.
The bar had closed for the night when the incident occurred, Parsons said.
Parsons acknowledged that there were some altercations outside, but he said that is the case with bars and nightclubs all over the city.
"But no one ever hears anything about those bars," Parsons said. "We're being singled out."
Lt. Shawn Williams was one of the officers on the scene. He could not say for sure whether the incident occurred inside Impulse or on the street.
"When that place empties out, there are a lot of people coming out of the place at once," he said.
Williams said another officier took witness statements.
According to the report, Lucas and Martin are cousins. Officers found both on Capitol Street outside the bar.
Both victims were initially uncooperative with police, according to the report.
Upon further questioning, Martin told officers he and Lucas were in Impulse for only about 10 minutes before the incident occurred.
Amores said she is talking to her attorney about the matter. She believes she is unfairly blamed for all the incidents that occur on Capitol Street.
The mayor said she was unfairly singling out the city.
According to the report, both victims approached the bar in the nightclub to buy drinks. While standing at the bar, Martin was stabbed four times, according to the report.
He was stabbed once in the neck and three times in the back with a small, sharp object, said Sgt. Bobby Eggleton, assistant chief of detectives.
Lucas tried to help his cousin but was struck in the head with what officers believe was a beer bottle.
This is just the latest in a long line of incidents at the downtown nightclub, Police Chief Brent Webster said.
"We're fed up with it," he said. "I think the bar needs to be shut down."
Eggleton said many bars believe incidents are no longer their problem if they occur outside but owners still can be held responsible if the altercation began inside.
"We expect bar owners to keep their establishments on the up and up," Eggleton said. "And we have incident after incident there (Impulse)."
Webster believes a culture of violence has been established at the nightclub that is not present in other downtown bars.
"There's a potential for problems anywhere alcohol is served," Webster said. "But it seems like Impulse has had way too many problems."
The mayor, who supported the bar's opening in 2007, now wants to see it shut down.
"I very much regret that I ever endorsed this project," he said.
Jones said Amores originally told him the establishment would be upscale and food would be served.
"The owner did not keep their word about what they were going to do," he said. "To the owner, it must be a money factory, but to the city it's a crime factory."
Jones said the city is working with the ABCA and he hopes to have the establishment closed.
In May, an altercation at Impulse resulted in property damage at another Capitol Street business. An altercation inside the club involving about 20 people spilled into the street. A large storefront window at Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream was shattered.
A recording from a brawl that began in the club and spilled onto Capitol Street in 2011 was posted on Youtube.
In 2008, a security guard working at the club was shot in the upper thigh with a .22 caliber rifle.
Police have a suspect in the most recent incident, but no arrests have been made, Eggleton said.
ABCA spokesman Gig Robinson said enforcement officers were aware of an incident over the weekend on Capitol Street.
"All I can say is the matter is under investigation, and we're working closely with the Charleston Police Department," he said.
ABCA investigators are looking at whether the incident occurred inside the club or on the street, he said.
The agency can revoke an alcohol license if a bar is found to be a public nuisance, he said. It also can fine the license holder or temporarily suspend the license.
Eggleton hopes the nightclub will be closed.
"We have other things we can be doing except responding to the same place for the same problems," he said.
City police officers often stand vigil outside the club, which is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Webster said. The nightclub owners cover the wages for the officers.
At least one officer was outside the club at the time of the incident. The officer discovered Martin, he said.
The officer called for an ambulance and backup. Another officer found Lucas further down on the 100 block of Capitol Street, according to the police report.
Webster said he found it very interesting that the club still has problems even when officers are standing outside.
The victims and a witness have not returned calls from police seeking more information, Webster said.
The suspect is a black male in his early 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds, he said.
Police did not recover a weapon, Webster said.
The victims were treated and released from Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital with minor injuries, Eggleton said.