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The city has asked a Circuit Court judge to suspend alcohol sales at a club where police have been summoned many times in the past year and where a man was killed in August.
In court documents, they allege that the owner of Club Royale Blue has allowed the business to become “a meeting place for persons committing serious criminal violations of the law,” giving the court the right under state law to temporarily take its liquor license. The activity taking place on or adjacent to the club is “so frequent and serious as to be deemed a continuing threat to public safety,” according to the documents.
Kevin Martingayle, the attorney representing club owner Barry Davis, challenges the law as unconstitutionally vague and police statistics as misleading.
“Any time you have people in large numbers, there will be some amount of crime,” Martingayle said. “The question is, what is an unusual amount of criminal activity in consideration of the total number of people attending an event or going through a place on a given night?”
A hearing on the police request is scheduled today.
In the past 16 months, according to the court documents, police said they have received more than 100 calls directly linked to Club Royale Blue, at 800 Baker Road. About 45 of those calls involved “violence, disorderly conduct, weapons violations or other incidents adversely impacting public safety,” according to an affidavit filed in Circuit Court by Police Chief James Cervera.
Police said they have responded for reports of gunfire, stabbings, large fights, weapons and assaults. In August, Samuel Dawkins, 30, was killed on the club’s dance floor when he was hit on the head with a large glass bottle. A Suffolk man later was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Cervera in his affidavit said officers have asked the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to investigate the business, a process he said could take weeks or months.
“It is my opinion that suspending Club Royale Blue’s ABC license pending a full hearing by the ABC Board is necessary to adequately protect public health and safety,” he said in the affidavit.
The ABC is investigating the club, said Becky Gettings, a spokeswoman for the department. A hearing has not been scheduled because no charges have been filed, she said.
Martingayle said he plans to challenge the statistics police have cited in court documents. The number of calls for service to the club don’t paint an accurate picture, he said. In the 16-month window police cited, more than 140,000 people visited Club Royale Blue, he said.
“We think the statistics are favorable,” he said.
Martingayle also said the club has tried to cooperate with police and that, when asked, officials have not offered any suggestions for dealing with the criminal element.
“We have paid for the police to get the requisite knowledge to prevent crime,” Martingayle said. “I think they should provide it to us.”
The club is also in the process of improving security, through steps such as better lighting outside, he said. The club has received permission to serve champagne in plastic carafes instead of bottles, he said, and the business is getting an ID scanner that will allow employees to flag patrons who have caused problems.
“We’ve got a lot of different ideas of things we think will work,” Martingayle said. “What’s disappointing is that police have been unwilling to give specific suggestions.”
Sarah Hutchins, 757-222-5131, firstname.lastname@example.org
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