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Central Avenue nightclub owners face possible fines

The owners will appear before the Nuisance Abatement Board after complaints of illegal activity including brawling, drug sales and indecent exposure.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 13, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- A Central Avenue nightclub that has been the subject of police scrutiny in recent months now is facing possible fines because of alleged drug activity around its premises.

The club owners are scheduled to appear before the city's Nuisance Abatement Board at 2 p.m. today at City Hall.

The seven-member panel, if it declares the club a nuisance, could levy a fine of up to $5,000 and assess investigative costs. Often the board tries to persuade club owners to cooperate in eliminating problems.

The 1901 Club, named for its Central Avenue address, has drawn attention because of large crowds of youngsters that have crowded the street and sidewalks in front of the club during its Friday teen nights.

Special police details rerouted traffic and monitored crowds that sometimes grew to an estimated 200 people. Several violent incidents were reported, including fights and rock- and bottle-throwing at officers.

But police say they have found other activity that justifies bringing the club's owners before the board.

The complaint the board will consider outlines more than 30 occasions since January that police say involved various illegal activity, including brawling, drug sales and delivery, and indecent exposure. Detectives and confidential informants provided the information. Arrests have been made in several of the incidents.

Owners Victor and Lorraine Ronchetti couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Earlier this year, they said the city aims to close the club, as it was able to do with the Platinum Vault, a rave club the Ronchettis previously operated on the site.

Some of the incidents described in the police complaint took place on the teen nights, but others were on the more traditional adult nights.

Cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy are among the drugs police say have been involved in transactions. Incidents have taken place both inside and outside the club, police say.

Ecstasy is the street name for the drug MDMA, which usually is sold as tablets or pills. It is popular among some rave club enthusiasts. The drug can cause heart attacks and seizures and was blamed for the death last week of a 17-year-old Pasco County youth.

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