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Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard revoked the conditional license of a controversial St. Paul Street nightclub -- citing a lack of security and violent events that have taken place outside the club.
The Plush Lounge at 151 St. Paul has come into conflict with an increasingly residential neighborhood in the St. Paul Quarter. On Thanksgiving morning, four men were shot at St. Paul and Andrews Streets. A fifth person was struck by a fleeing car.
This morning I was joined by one of the founders of the St. Paul Quarter Neighborhood Association, Terry Owen.
Also, we reached out to the Owner of Plush, Maurice Ragland. He was unable to join us for a live interview, but did provide the following statement:
I am forwarding to you my thoughts on this matter which has received far more
attention than any of the several murders committed across the city within the
last few days. Unfortunately this city has it's priorities in all of the wrong
places at the moment. This city is bleeding and it amazes me that the
target has become the night clubs; Black Nightclubs. Attached is a message that
I sent out to my staff in response to the incidents, messaging and an
assessment of the events which occurred over the Holiday weekend.
The news reports continue to indicate a recent rise in violence, in noise,
loitering, and burglaries.
1. RPD Entertainment detail removed from the neighborhood little over a month
ago: Night Details are used across the nation this not unique to Rochester.
They are put in place not as a reaction to violence but rather as
preventative measures to ensure public safety in areas where large crowds
congregate. This is the case for festivals, events etc. The Saint Paul
quarters is a recognized entertainment district which is zoned for mixed use
residential and commercial and sees hundreds to thousands of predominately
Black Patrons per week. The Bars and Nightclubs have been a part of the
district for decades. And the night detail has been in place for years. Not
sure why it would be removed?
The first thing to note is this incident occurred after hours during the
let-out after a peaceful night catered to preserving and celebrating life of
three young ladies struck down to senseless violence in the City where no
issues were noted inside the club.
There are three main issues surrounding this situation: 1. The removal of the
standing police detail on Saint Paul 2. The recent closing of several bars and
nightclubs across the city which has funneled activity and traffic to the few
areas that are still operating and 3. Loitering and criminal activity occurring
on private property which is outside of the jurisdiction of the clubs security
guards that often times are the source of issue and noise complaints.
Police details run in every other entertainment district across the city.
Historically there has always been a Night detail assigned to the Saint Paul
Quarters but it was removed with no notice or discussion last month after
Maxwells Nightclub closed-- who made this call and what was the rationale for
this move? When Venu closed last year and Maxwells was the only opened
establishment catering to an African American demographic in the area the night
detail remained active the entire time so this could not be a question of
numbers. What would be the rationale for totally removing the detail after
Maxwells left when the use of details remains a standard practice for the City?
Concurrently as the night detail was removed from Saint Paul several
establishments catering to Predominately African American crowds were closed
due to efforts by the city to address "problem nuisance
establishments". Consequently the few clubs which remain opened have
become targets for the same individuals who created problems at the other
establishments and without an appropriate deterrent the night detail, nor
authority over the surrounding private lots which have always been managed by
the night details these surrounding parking lots are now safe havens for
loitering and other criminal activity.
These surrounding areas are outside of the jurisdiction of the club security.
And although we have sufficient guards to secure the interior and
exterior of the premise the presence of the detail helps significantly and
allows intervention in areas which are outside the guards jurisdiction.
These parking lots are private property where the owners set up
enterprises to make money charging cars to park; however after the parking lots
are full the attendants leave and there are no guards or security left to
monitor these areas. There are individuals in the lots who never enter
the club but who have legal right to stay because they paid to be there. They
are the Patrons of the Parking lots not the clubs. Regardless, they are and
have historically been a major sources of the violence in the area. If you look
at the footage from the street tapes you will see that a small percentage of
the cars that park in the lot are actually patrons of the clubs and also that
the sources of issues occurring during the let out is due to individuals who
have full access to the area close to and well after the 2AM let
The violence in this city is occurring at an alarming rate. These acts are not
unique to Saint Paul nor are they caused by the night clubs. The incidents from
last week did not boil out from the night clubs. Rather they were a result of
issues that are unresolved from the streets and recent changes to policies
around the night detail that are active in other areas of the city and firmly
in place to deter things like this from occurring in areas where large crowds
A couple months ago there was a Bar Crawl on East ave where there was a major
mob brawl and stabbing a occurred. This was seen as an anomaly with little to
no media coverage although fights and lewd acts occur weekly. However there is
appropriate measures taken to understand the psychology of night entertainment
on East Ave and the proper measure required to address this area. The area
is looked at as being beneficial to commerce.
Well hundreds to thousands of Patrons show up weekly to Saint Paul quarters
there is an equal demand and supply this is a viable and necessary commodity to
African American citizens yet we don't receive the same support from the City.
The bar detail on East Ave is vibrant and active; the police are out on the
streets assisting traffic and patrons the presence is organized there are
barricades and mounted officers out and about. The detail on Saint Paul does
not have the same vibrancy. When it was active, the officers are all together
in their cars not out and about they are not assisting traffic or patrons.
Although Saint Paul is an entertainment district sponsored by the City, if the
officers have to get out from their cars to deal with a patron or to break up a
fight which is a common occurrence in districts where alcohol is served tickets
are issued to the nightclubs. It is adversarial vs cooperative relationship and
the quality of the experience on Saint Paul has suffered as a result.
In summary, the issue on Saint Paul is not an open and shut case. There is a
active attempt within the City administration to systematically shut down all
night establishments catering to African American patrons. This can be seen by
the recent closing of several noted night clubs. There are now two remaining
each of which is receiving heavy scrutiny from RPD and the city legal
department. The issue on Saint Paul is not about safety it's about
removing the Night Clubs. If the issue was about safety one would ask the
obvious questions. Should the Saint Paul quarters have a bar detail like East
ave and Monroe? Why was the detail removed after so many years? What's being
done about the loitering in the parking lots and surrounding areas during and
after club hours which have been noted over and over through the years as a
problem? The recent rise in crime in the area is correlated and caused by
recent changes to public safety and removal of the night detail. This is not to
blame the City or RPD no one thinks that anyone wished for these young men to
be hurt. But the issue here is not club security or club policies it's changes
to policies which were proven issues and proven solutions and standard
practices across the city which were changed and the very things that they were
designed to prevent occurred.
No one opens their establishment with
intent to see someone hurt. Like all of the other businesses in the area we
have made significant investments in our businesses and also significant
commitments to the advancement of Nightlife in Rochester. We have
operated within the guidelines of our charters and licenses and have provided
adequate security and entertainment. This is proof by the number of patrons who
support our businesses from all walks of life. The issue on Saint Paul is
a difference in vision for the area. There are developers who wish to emulate
East Ave yet they see the nightclubs as a deterrent to that vision. The area is
Zoned mixed use and we have every right to be there. There are several changes
that have occurred in the area that's should be questioned before blame is
pointed to the clubs. This is a Zoning issue and a matter of resolution for the
Neighborhood association and barring the clubs is a band aid not the
He also added this...
I also thought it worth noting that plush has received no tickets for the
issues raised by the city with the exception of last week. Several of the
issues noted occurred prior to the other Bars on Saint Paul closing and were
not isolated to Plush. However they quickly moved to revoke and close the
establishment. If Plush was such an ongoing problem where are the tickets?
And more important with a standing Bar detail on East Ave and every other
night area allowed to have large crowds congregate why was the Bar Detail
recently removed from Saint Paul? If anything I would suspect that the
only justification for removing the detail would be there were no problems
however that wasn't the case it was because there is a small faction of
administrators who have made it their mission to shut down all Black club but
particularly the ones operating on the Saint Paul Quarters. The city has
listed several unsubstantiated, an in corroborated incidents as justification
for closure. What happened to innocent until proven guilty. There was a
horrendous incident which occurred on Saint Paul this past week but it was not
created by the club it was just the type of incident they have been waiting for
to do just this. If the issue was Public safety there would have been a detail
assigned to Saint Paul.
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