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Council may close club as 'nuisance'

Members say shooting deaths prove Club XS is unsafe. Its manager blames dark parking lots it doesn't own or control.

By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

TAMPA -- Next to the Tampa Convention Center, the Tampa Waterside Marriott and the new streetcar station is a neighbor that City Council members don't much like: Club XS.

Thursday, council members talked about shutting down the hip-hop club as a public nuisance that has drawn crime to a section of downtown the city wants to revitalize.

"If ever there was an example of a public nuisance abatement case, this is it," City Council member Bob Buckhorn said.

Council members asked city attorneys to investigate whether they could shut down the club because of crimes that have occurred in nearby parking lots when the club closes in the early morning hours. Since 1998, the club's parking lots have been the scene of several deadly shootings and other incidents.

In July, a St. Petersburg man was killed and another critically injured in a shooting in a parking lot about 3 a.m. Last year, a 21-year-old Tampa man was shot and killed in the club's overflow lot at 2:45 a.m.

In September 1998, a Tampa police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old man who fired a gun at a car while leaving the club.

Council members also asked why the club owed Tampa police about $13,585 in unpaid bills for off-duty officers.

"We are helping them keep a business that is a nuisance and certainly does not complement that area," council member Rose Ferlita said.

City Attorney James Palermo said it might be hard to shut down Club XS because of laws broken in downtown parking lots Club XS does not own. He said he would study the issue.

The club advertises "the biggest Sunday in the South" on Sunday nights that can attract as many as 3,000 people. Hip-hop artists including Eminem have performed there.

Manager Kevin Deck, who didn't know about the City Council meeting, said the club frisks people who enter and hires off-duty police and security staff. He denied that the club hadn't paid bills to the Police Department. The shootings have occurred in parking lots the club doesn't own, he said.

"I can't control those," Deck said.

People get robbed because they park far from the club in dark lots that aren't maintained by parking staff.

"It's 2:30 or 3 in the morning. It's dark out. They're easy game," Deck said. "They know these people come with money -- big money. They come with gold chains worth thousands of dollars."

He said parking lot owners should keep staff on if they open their lots late.

Shootings have happened at other clubs the city doesn't want to shut down, he said.

The shootings happen "because someone had a grudge," Deck said. "That crime was probably going to happen wherever they meet up with the guy."

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