Selma pulls business license of another downtown club

Published 12:09 am Thursday, June 21, 2012

For club owner Clyde Richardson, he has operated Club Entourage for 16 years. But, following a decision by the Selma City Council Wednesday evening, the business is shut down and Richardson is not sure if he will bring a business back to “this dry town.”

The council voted to pull Richardson’s business license for the Alabama Avenue club, citing a series of incidents in the past three years city and police officials said created an unsafe environment for residents in downtown Selma.

“The totality of events at Club Entourage are of a great concern,” Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said in his testimony during Wednesday’s hearing. “These are the reasons why it is my recommendation that the business license of Club Entourage be revoked.”

During his testimony — a testimony that was strongly challenged by Richardson’s attorney Jim DeBardelaben — Riley laid out a series of events over the past year that had reportedly taken place at or near 1212 Alabama Ave., the club’s location.

The incidents included murder, assault first, criminal mischief, delinquency of a minor and others. During the report, Riley said in 2010 police were called to the club 22 times, 24 times in 2011 and already in 2012, 30 times.

One of those times was June 1, when two shooters entered the club early and opened fire. A club security guard returned fire, reportedly killing one of the suspects and injuring another. In the process, four club patrons were injured.

In their investigation following the shooting, police also found a number of used marijuana “roaches,” and other signs of marijuana use inside the club, both in ashtrays and tables.

Following the meeting, Riley said it was not just that one incident that led to Wednesday’s council decision, but a number of calls over the past few years.

“We have met with these club owners on more than one occasion,” Riley said. “They know what we expect from them. This is not a one-time incident, rather it is the totality of the calls that caused us concern.”

During testimony, Richardson and his attorney questioned the number of calls presented during the hearing, saying some of those calls took place outside of the club where security guards and club ownership has no authority.

Repeatedly, DeBardelaben pointed out the club — or any downtown club for that matter — does not have parking lots, relying on street parking, where clubs do not have authority to disband crowds.

Richardson also claimed he was being held responsible for the police calls to his club that he or his staff had called in, asking for assistance. Riley, pointed out after the meeting, that those calls where club officials called for help were not held against the club in this decision.

The council’s decision revokes Richardson’s license for one year, and Club Entourage becomes the third downtown club shuttered by city officials in recent years, joining The Loft and 12th Stone as clubs to have their licenses revoked in similar fashion.

In handing down her decision to abstain from Wednesday’s vote, Ward 7 Selma Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said her lack of a vote was tied to what she believes is a lack of communication and cooperation between club owners and Selma’s Police Department.

“I would say that we move to close all of the clubs until a better system of cooperation can be established,” Crenshaw said. “Until that can happen, I would suggest we close them all.”

As for his plans moving forward, Richardson is not sure if they include reopening a club or business.

“I’ve got a lot of money invested in Selma, millions of dollars in this town,” Richardson said. “I don’t know if I want to put more money back in this dry town. I’ll have to think about that.”