The owner of a Rockingham nightclub, stripped of its permits to sell alcohol after multiple reports of alleged violence at the property, has the right to fight state officials to get those license suspensions lifted.
After being approached by law enforcement agencies in Richmond County, the North Carolina ABC Commission suspended the alcohol permits held by Suede, a club located at 303 E. Washington St., in downtown Rockingham.
The suspension handed down May 3 prohibits the business from selling alcohol. Suede had held permits to sell beer, wine and mixed beverages since 2011.
The order, signed by James C. Gardner, chairman of the NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, notes that the suspension was immediate. It also notes that pursuant to state law, the permitee has the right to file a Petition for a Contested Case Hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings for the matter to be heard before an Administrative Law Judge.
State records show Suede is owned by Talley Restaurants Inc. The manager is listed as Paul Brian Talley.
ABC officials late this week said Suede has not responded to the suspensions nor filed an appeal.
The May 3 suspension order says in part, “The disregard for safety by continuing commercial sales and service of alcohol, despite the ongoing violence resulting in serious injury to patrons, creates a hazardous environment for the public. Based upon the above, the ABC Commission … finds that the protection of the public health, safety and welfare requires emergency action.”
Police officers fear for their safety and that of the public, and the manpower required to monitor the premises is a “drain” on area law enforcement agencies “and causes other parts of the city and county to be neglected,” the order reads.
Sworn statements of law enforcement officers describing numerous fights with crowds as large as 450 people and an April 27 incident with shots fired and serious cutting injuries at Suede, prompted the license suspensions, state officials said.
Both Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly and Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. asked the state to shut the club down.
Affidavits of officers detailed several incidents of violence, which included an assault on a law officer and numerous calls for service to the location including backup assistance rendered by Hamlet Police Department and the NC State Highway Patrol, according to the Commission.
A similar chain of events led to the closure of another nightclub in Rockingham about seven months ago.
P3 Bar & Night Club, which was located at 416 E. Broad Ave., was characterized as “violent” in a statement released by the ABC Commission. It appears a shooting the weekend of Oct. 14 was the final straw for alcohol law enforcement officials.
“A Rockingham club, which has been the site of a fatal choking and numerous fights requiring response by law enforcement from three counties, in the last week saw a patron wounded by gunfire,” said the ABC Commission.
The pattern of escalating violence at the property, reported by police, prompted the ABC Commission on Oct. 19 to suspend P3’s permits to sell alcohol. The business had held permits to serve alcohol since June 2011.
In nearly 30 pages of affidavits, police officers detailed repeated calls to P3 to handle disturbances, fights, assaults, and other complaints throughout several months in 2012.
On Sept. 2, the suspension order states, the entire shift of Rockingham police officers, State Highway Patrol from three counties, Hamlet Police Department officers and two Richmond County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to P3 for crowd control due to “multiple fights, failing to disperse, disorderly conduct, and communicating threats.”
On Oct. 14, Rockingham police responded to P3 regarding a fight call and shots fired call where a person was hit in the hand by errant gunshot pellets, according to the order.
The owner of P3, identified in state records as Charles Dempsey Pope, in an interview with the Daily Journal in October said the Rockingham Police Department was unfairly targeting his business, alleging that officers harassed and intimidated his patrons.
Chief Kelly said that was not true, and that the department had tried to work with Pope to solve troubles at the club.
As for the fate of P3, the ABC Commission had filed a Petition with the Office of Administrative Hearings that the location was “No Longer Suitable” to hold permits, but the business never responded and the OAH couldn’t reach the permittee to schedule a hearing. So the matter was not heard in the courts, state officials said.
The ABC Commission permanently canceled the permits held by P3 within the last couple of weeks. The landlord/property manager had advised the ABC Commission that the permittee had abandoned the property around November 2012 and was not welcome back, state officials said.
Asked for his reaction to the permanent cancellation of permits held by P3, Chief Kelly told the Daily Journal, “Anytime the Rockingham Police Department can help our citizens and visitors stay safe is a good day for all of us.”
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at email@example.com.