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The popular feature at Club More is ordered stopped until the proper permit is acquired. Owners say that could devastate the club.
By EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001
CLEARWATER -- The city is trying to KO Monday night boxing at Club More for now because the owners of the nightclub failed to obtain the proper permit.
The club's owners say shutting down fight night even for a few weeks could ruin its trend-powered momentum and possibly kill the weekly event that now draws between 400 and 500 people.
The club's owners say they believed their night club license covered recreational boxing, just as it does dance contests and concerts. They say they had no idea they needed an indoor recreation/entertainment license to offer such an event.
But after a city's development review official learned about the boxing activity by reading a St. Petersburg Times story, she sent Club More a letter ordering the club to cease Monday night boxing until the owners go through a 60-day review process. The review includes a community development board meeting and a fee of $1,205.
The club paid the fee, but it hasn't stopped fight night. And club co-owner Ted Henderson won't say whether he will abide by the city's request. Because fight night generates so much money, he wants to continue the event throughout the review process.
"We're not trying to stand in defiance," Henderson said. "We are trying to work with the city. I tried very hard to get someone in power to say let's take a look at fight night, let's let those guys continue until the meetings.
"The assistant city manager said, "Those are the rules, this is the system.' "
The city is not entirely unsympathetic.
"They're good neighbors," said Clearwater Development Services Director Jeff Kronschnabl. "They didn't know they were doing wrong."
But Clearwater police officers were in the building Monday night, filming the action. On Tuesday, the club received two citations: a $35 fine for not having the correct occupational license, and an $85 fine for operating without meeting zoning requirements.
Kronschnabl hinted repeated violations could affect the board's decision.
"If you are a review board, you're going to ask if that person is abiding by a code," he said.
But Ralph Stone, the city's planning director, said repeated violation don't "affect our deliberations."
The club began fight night Feb. 12 and it quickly became popular.
Henderson said he was shocked when he read the city's letter a couple of weeks ago.
"It's ironic because the title of the license -- indoor recreation and entertainment -- describes a nightclub," Henderson said. "We consider ourselves a Ruth Eckerd or a Jannus Landing. We call ourselves an entertainment facility with a bar."
Henderson thinks the city erred when it offered him and his partners a nightclub permit instead of an indoor recreation/entertainment permit three years ago when the facility changed from a woodworking shop to a bar-type establishment.
"We believe the city was aware we were a recreational/entertainment (business)," Henderson said. "They knew (we would have) a wide variety of entertainment, music, plays and audience participation shows -- anything we could come up with that falls into the nightclub genre. When were originally accepted by the board for a nightclub license, they kind of messed up and should have given us an indoor recreation license."
He said fight night is one of the most low-key nights of the week, and draws the "mellowest crowd." There have been no unauthorized fights outside the club's ring Monday nights.
The club recently obtained a city permit to sell food.
Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said even though patrons of Club More park in the police parking lot across from the club and leave cans around, the nightclub has "been a very good neighbor and a good citizen in this city."
"The owners run a clean, tight ship," Shelor said. "If we had more nightclubs like Club More we'd be a lot less busy."
Henderson is glad to hear comments like Shelor's, but said "no one in the city is listening to the damage (stopping the boxing) is doing to Club More."
"Please don't shut us down," Henderson said. "We're not doing anything wrong."