Escalating violence and criminal acts at a Rockingham nightclub have led state officials to suspend the club’s permits to sell alcohol, according to the North Carolina ABC Commission.
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 the club known as Suede have prompted the ABC Commission to suspend the alcohol permits held by the business.
The club, located at 303 E. Washington St., in downtown Rockingham, has held permits to sell beer, wine and mixed beverages since 2011.
The suspension was handed down on Friday, May 3, and detailed in a news release on Saturday by the ABC Commission.
The suspension, which prohibits the business from selling alcohol, is in effect immediately, according to Agnes Stevens, Public Affairs Director for the commission.
Affidavits of law enforcement officials detailed several incidents of violence, which included an assault on a law officer and numerous calls for service to the location including assistance rendered by Hamlet Police Department and the NC State Highway Patrol, according to the Commission.
A phone call made to the club on Saturday seeking comment on this story went to an outgoing voicemail message about entertainment lined up for Nov. 23-24.
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly and Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. prepared letters urging that the ABC Commission take action to stop the sale of alcohol at Suede, the Commission said.
In a letter dated May 3, 2013, Chief Kelly asks the Commission to immediately revoke the ABC permits held by Suede.
Kelly mentions “many recent violent episodes that have occurred on or about the property,” and says he is extremely concerned for the safety of the patrons who frequent Suede and for his police officers who must respond to calls for service.
“The criminal activity at the club seems to be escalating as I have noticed (an) increase in the violent crimes,” Kelly wrote to the Commission.
Kelly cites two recent incidents:
• On Friday, April 27, 2013, Rockingham police officers responded to a shots fired call at Suede, where approximately 450 people were assembled. The Rockingham officers had to have help from all officers and deputies in the county as well as from the State Highway Patrol from surrounding counties, Kelly said. “There were shots fired, multiple fights, a subject cut, and damaged property,” the chief wrote.
• On Saturday, March 30, 2013, Rockingham police officers responded to a disturbance call at Suede. “There were multiple altercations in the parking lot and a female was struck in the face by a male who fled on foot and was apprehended after a struggle along with two other males who were involved in the altercation as well,” Kelly wrote.
“These are just the most recent incidents that have taken place in the past weeks; however, Club Suede has been a problem establishment for the City of Rockingham for some time,” the chief wrote.
The ABC Commission reviewed the letters and the sworn statements of the law enforcement officers and on Friday issued the summary suspension, which is immediate and is in effect until the case is heard by the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The action is authorized under N.C. General Statute 150B-3(c), which directs the ABC Commission to begin hearing proceedings on the matter.
In April 2010, the state ABC Commission announced Last Call — a cooperative initiative with local law enforcement and ALE that streamlines the process for suspending alcohol permits of violent bars and clubs. This week’s action is the 17th summary suspension of permanent ABC permits by the state ABC Commission since Last Call was introduced. It is the first summary suspension of 2013.
North Carolina is one of 17 states to regulate alcohol through a control system. Since 1937, the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has provided regulation and control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages in the state of North Carolina. The commission oversees more than 25,000 permits allowing alcohol sales by more than 18,000 retail outlets across the state.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.