National News

Teen parties skirt rules, By ANASTASIA DAWSON, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

Posted January 10, 2018 11:01 p.m. EST

TAMPA -- Fliers, websites and social media posts quickly spread the word whenever a one-night-only teen party pops up in a local venue.

But few other signs point to what's happening. Even the manager of a storage center where a New Year's party ended in fatal gunfire said he didn't know dances were being held there.

Body shops and furniture operators do business by day at the gritty Stor-ette Business Park. But on some nights, the park becomes "Dub D Dance Hall" -- the online alias for the building at 5809 N 50th St. where a 15-year-old girl and the family friend sent to drive her home were shot to death by security guards.

Teen gatherings known as raves in the 1980s and 1990s and warehouse parties in the 2000s prompted a series of ordinances that tamped down the all-night parties Generation X would host at nightclubs in the city of Tampa. But today's teens looking to party end up in the industrial outskirts of the county, in places that can be rented for one night on the cheap -- sometimes before anyone knows whether promoters have followed the rules.

Unless an event ends in a 911 call or a complaint to code enforcement officials, there's little to no way for officials to crash the party, said Todd Pratt, a Hillsborough County spokesman. No one is tasked with looking for them.

The Stor-ette warehouse, just outside city limits, may be the only event space in the past five years to be shuttered for operating in Hillsborough County without the proper zoning and permits, said county code enforcement director Ron Spiller. That action came after the party was held and the shootings happened.

"Getting the proper zoning to be an event space is just the minimal first step," Pratt said. "Even then, there are occupancy and security requirements that you have to stick to or you'll wind up with a party that gets out of hand."

Stor-ette manager Derek Ivezaj said he thought he had rented out the space to someone needing an office, he told the Tampa Bay Times.

"I had no idea anything had happened until I saw it on the news," he said. "Under their lease they weren't allowed to host any events or do anything like that."

Records show Ivezaj evicted the previous tenant for doing the same thing -- renting the space out for parties.

The "New Year's Teen Pajama Jam" ended early because of fighting, and 200 or more teenagers filed out into a front parking lot.

Security guards Keyon Williams and Connor Harm told investigators they returned fire after someone in a car began shooting at them about 10:45 p.m. The car's two occupants, Jyhaad D. Grant, 25, and Julissa Jackson, 15, were killed. Two handguns that had just been fired were found in the car, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office said.

No charges have been filed against the guards. An investigation continues.

The event was organized by 21-year-old Tyler Mills, who goes by the name "Tyler the Celebrity." Images with gold balloons, red velvet pillows and feathers promoted the party in Facebook groups like the 3,600-member "Tampa Teen Clubs" and "Tampa Talent," which has about 22,300 members.

The promotion advertises a $50 pajama contest, "sounds" by local DJs, and a $10 entrance fee. "Security enforced," reads a message across the middle.

Mills could not be reached for comment.

A friend of the victims, Slick World Entertainment promoter Torrence Lee, is now partnering with Mills to throw a similar event Jan. 19 to raise money for the families of Grant and Jackson, Lee told the Tampa Bay Times.

This time, the party is at the Bounce Boy Warehouse, 5008 E Tenth Ave., headquarters for a bouncy house rental business, according to state business records. The flier for the event reads, "Calling out all high schools in the surrounding area." Security isn't mentioned.

"I was inspired to help throw this event as a memorial to JuJu (Jackson) and the families," Lee said. "I usually just do club events, but if we did it at a regular venue all of her friends and family in high school couldn't even get in."

One reason: separation of adults and minors in local ordinances.

Efforts to crack down on dangerous teen gatherings date to the "rave ordinances" spearheaded by then-City Council member Bob Buckhorn in 1996. Buckhorn, now mayor, persuaded fellow council members to pass a citywide curfew prohibiting anyone under 17 from gathering in public or semi-public places after 11 p.m. during the week and after midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Teens caught violating the curfew risked fines and even jail time for the misdemeanor charge.

Courts found the curfew unconstitutional in 2002, but left intact the dance hall portions of the ordinances. In general, they prohibit large gatherings in buildings not zoned for serving alcohol.

The crackdown gave rise to a new market for clubs where teen nights cater to the 18 and under crowd.

Brawls at two such venues, Whisky North on N Dale Mabry Highway and the now-shuttered Boomerang Martini Bar in Brandon, resulted in lawsuits still pending against Eagle One Security Force -- the same security company that hired the guards who fired the fatal shots at the New Year's party.

"There are non-alcoholic clubs that cater to teenagers," said Tampa attorney Peter Anthony Sartes II, who represents one of the plaintiffs suing Whisky North, "but generally business owners see that's not a great idea since the exposure to liability is tremendous.

"Because you're dealing with children, you're not dealing with adults,'' he said. "You're basically responsible for everything."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

The rules on teen parties

Here are highlights of city of Tampa and Hillsborough County ordinances that apply to large teen parties.

Separation: In the city of Tampa, so-called dance hall ordinances require that permit applications be designated as "juvenile," with no one 18 or older allowed entry, or "adult," no one 17 or younger allowed.

Hillsborough County requires no direct separation, but all venues are prohibited from admitting anyone under 18 after midnight unless accompanied by a parent or guardian and anyone under 21 after 3 a.m.

Security: Tampa requires dance halls to hire two or more off-duty law enforcement officers to work as security guards if the number of occupants inside exceeds 250.

Hillsborough requires two exterior security officers be present at all dance halls "seven days a week during the hours of operation and 30 minutes after closing."

Supervision: Both the city and county require a designated "dance hall supervisor," registered with authorities. The supervisor must submit a permit request that is reviewed by fire, law enforcement, business and other authorities.