Nightclub News: June 11, 2009

The upscale Envie Lounge in Fort Myers, Fla., closed its doors Sunday on the heels of declining attendance and decreased spends from its customers, says owner Nils Richter. He also blames the city’s ban on 18- to 20-year-old club-goers and the city council’s feet-dragging in overturning the ban that has been in place since 2002. Anthony Wayne and Allan Silverberg, former owners of Rockstarz rock club, announced they will assume control of the venue and will add a stage in order to emphasize live music from local and national bands when the venue reopens toward the end of the summer.

The deadly nightclub fire that claimed 44 lives last year at King of the Dancers nightclub in Shenzhen City in China's Guangdong province continues to identify those at fault. Seventeen people, from the club’s owners to its senior management staff, have been accused of having some responsibility for the fire. Last month, seven people were sentenced to 13 years in prison, including two former police officers and the head of the local fire station, for accepting bribes from the clubs owners. The nightclub was unlicensed at the time and never had a fire safety inspection.

A California resident has filed a federal lawsuit claiming Las Vegas cab and limousine companies extorted more than $40 million last year in kickbacks from gentlemen’s clubs that often pay drivers upward of $100 per male customer they bring to the club. The lawsuit claims the clubs then recoup the kickback by “watering liquor, selling cheap booze as brand name, padding customers' bills, and threats of actual physical harm to customers.” It’s not the first time the longstanding practice has come under legal cross-hairs, but the lawsuit’s claim that, "Perhaps most prevalent is the impact on women and families, who have the greatest difficulty obtaining the services of taxi cabs in Las Vegas since taxi cab drivers have a much greater incentive to pick up single men or groups of men," seems to ignore the fact that it’s only legal for drivers to pick up from a cabstand and at these cabstands, riders are picked up on a first-come, first-serve basis. This practice makes it impossible for a driver to pick up exclusively men and groups of men. More than two dozen cab and transportation companies were listed as defendants, along with more than a dozen of Vegas’ most popular gentlemen’s clubs, including the Spearmint Rhino, Sapphire, Club Paradise and the Olympic Gardens. It will be interesting to see how much teeth this new lawsuit has; in 2005, when legislation making kickbacks illegal was proposed, cab drivers threatened to strike and held mass honking sessions before then-governor Kenny Guinn vetoed the bill.

City councils in Chattanooga, Tenn., and South Bergen, N.J., are in the process of redefining what type of venue carries the classification of ‘nightclub’ and implementing new licensing restrictions and stipulations for those venues. In New Jersey, the reclassification was passed late last month with a complex classification system in place and new rules to enforce the number of parking spaces per square feet, an 8-foot fence surrounding buffer areas and dictating the direction the entrances must face. In Chattanooga, the new ordinance would define a nightclub as any venue serving alcohol between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. and having a capacity level of more than 50 people. If passed, any new nightclubs would have to be at least 1,000 feet from any residential home or neighborhood.

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