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Investigator Exclusive: Club owner says records show city is racist

1:09 PM, Jul 24, 2010   |    comments
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Channel 3 News requested records on police responses to clubs on West 6th Street after Councilman Joe Cimperman said the nightclub "Lust" has been a "pinpoint" of growing safety concerns in the popular party strip.

The city has responded to those concerns by using police to clear the street once bars close at 2:30 a.m.

The NAACP and the club's owner, however, say the city is targeting Lust because it does not want African Americans visiting the area.

NAACP President George Forbes is set to discuss his concerns on Monday with Mayor Frank Jackson.

Records show that police have made only one arrest at 1303 W. 6th St., where Lust is located, since January 2009.

By comparison, police have arrested 23 people just down the street at Panini's Bar & Grille -- the most of any establishment on the street.   And while police have responded 41 times to calls outside Lust in that time, records show they've  responded even more often to other nearby clubs that do not cater to a predominately black clientele. Velvet Dog had 56 police calls; Panini's had 45.  

"I think it demonstrates what I think is true -- that there's a racist intent here," said Lust owner Joe Carey.  

City attorney Tom Kaiser said claims that police have targeted minorities on West 6th Street are "ludicrous."  

"The city hasn't harassed anybody," Kaiser said. "We've simply pursued crime wherever it exists, and that's up and down West 6th Street."  

Kaiser made the comments outside U.S. District Court, where a federal judge just held an emergency hearing on a lawsuit by Lust and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, accused the police of having used unreasonable surveillance and intimidation -- parking a squad car and paddywagon directly outside Lust -- to force the club to shut down.

As the hearing proceeded, the city was dropped from the lawsuit and a deal was worked out to allow the club to remain open for 13 months if it provides 10 security officers outside the club to keep the crowds moving.

"You can't shut a club down for racial reasons," said Avery Friedman, attorney for Lust. "The landlord denied it but they're dropping the restraining order and we're open for business."  

The landlord wanted Lust evicted next month, but agreed to a compromise.  

 "That business bothered me," said Bob Rains of Landmark Management. "It was very noisy. I'm glad it's going someplace else in 13 months."      

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