Local News

Durham Ponders Whether Nightclub is a Public Nuisance

Posted December 28, 1998

— A deadly shooting outside a downtown nightclub has Durham officials wondering at what point a business turns into a public nuisance.

Durham City Manager Lamont Ewell spent Tuesday morning on the phone with the county attorney, city attorney and the chief of police. Ewell's goal is to stop the Power Company nightclub from threatening public safety.

In 1998, Durham police were called to the club 140 times. A murder this weekend pushed city officials to the limit.

Police say there was a fight at the nightclub that deteriorated into a shooting. When it was all over, one man was dead and two others were wounded. Police are still looking for a suspect.

"A lot of us have been quite worried for some time that the combination of intoxicants, testosterone and weapons, that something like this was likely to happen," said neighbor Bill Yeager.

Something "like this" did happen. Yeager's apartment is above the spot where the man was shot to death.

The neighbors say they've complained about the nightclub for years.

The city is still looking for a solution, and is weighing the options.

"Ultimately what would make me happy would be to not have any other injuries or deaths occur in or around that establishment," Ewell says.

"The goal is not necessarily to close it. If we can help them become a responsible venue, then we want to do that. But if have no other alternative then we have to look at the welfare of the public. And if that means trying to help shut them down then that's the option that we would have to pursue," he says.

The end result may not be to close down the club, but the city manager feels strongly that something must be done, and soon. Pursuing the public nuisance process could take a long time.

It took Raleigh over a year to shut down Club Iguana after dozens of complaints.

Power Company owner Jim Kennedy did not respond to our request for an interview.

The police department says it will now be watching the club, even using noise meters, as the city gathers evidence for a possible public nuisance case.

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