published Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Chattanooga looks to close problem event halls

Cars are parked outside the 2510 E. Main St. event hall. Several shootings have made the entertainment spots on Main and Dodds Avenue a dangerous place to be.
Cars are parked outside the 2510 E. Main St. event hall. Several shootings have made the entertainment spots on Main and Dodds Avenue a dangerous place to be.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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WHAT MAKES A PLACE A NUISANCE?

Any place that tolerates lewdness, prostitution, unlawful sale of alcohol, unlawful gambling, drug sales, display of obscene or pornographic material, quarreling, drunkenness, fighting, breaches of peace, gang activity, damaging or defacing property, disorderly conduct and contributes to the delinquency of a minor. An attorney general, district attorney, city attorney, county attorney or 10 or more citizens where the nuisance exists can petition the court to abate a nuisance.

Source: Tennessee codes

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

If city attorneys decide to file a complaint seeking a temporary injunction to close the businesses, a judge or chancellor may close the doors until additional orders are handed down. Temporary injunctions normally last for 10 days. If there is a hearing, an injunction can last longer. The statute requires a five-day notice of a hearing date. A judge can order that a business remain closed or impose certain conditions on a business in light of public safety issues.

Source: Phillip Noblett, deputy city attorney

The Chattanooga city attorney's office is reviewing whether there is enough evidence to ask a judge to close the doors to two event halls where three fatal shootings have occurred since April, Deputy City Attorney Phillip Noblett said.

Certain illegal acts can lead to a place being labeled a nuisance and shut down through an injunction filed in Criminal, Chancery or Circuit courts, according to state law.

"We will review the information that we have received from the police department and make a determination whether we can file an action in one of the courts to request a temporary injunction against any further actions if we think it constitutes a nuisance," Noblett said.

He anticipates a decision within the next week.

The event halls, which are only a few blocks apart, share more than 100 police calls since 2010 for everything from loud music to fights, weapons and shootings, police records show.

Just outside of Emotion Event Hall at 1622 Dodds Ave., also called Da Building, a July 5 shooting left 21-year-old Ladarius Daniel dead and another man wounded. The club owner, Dexter Staples, said the business was closed at the time of the shooting. He declined to comment for this story.

The city is reviewing a second, unnamed venue at 2510 E. Main St.

Last month there were two shootings on or near the property. One lot over, a 19-year-old man, Demetrius Davis, was shot and killed and three other men were wounded. Another man was wounded in another shooting.

In April, 28-year-old Desmond McClure was killed just outside the venue after an argument.

"I know that there has been some information regarding a shooting incident outside," Noblett said. "Whether it was involving patrons outside or people who were just on the street, I do not know."

City attorneys also are reviewing ordinances to determine whether there are any other violations at the venues.

"The city can enact regulations regarding alcohol and certain types of gatherings where there might be a public health or safety risk," he said. "There are some provisions on the books. I guess it's a question of whether people are asking for permits or not."

The last time the city filed an injunction to shutter a venue was in December 2011 after nine people were wounded in a shooting outside Club Fathom, 412 Market St., on Christmas morning. In that case, the city argued gang activity was tied to the venue through numerous assaults.

"You have to be able to establish that there are problems with the operation of the establishment through police reports that would warrant a nuisance existing," Noblett said.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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