Trouble spells an end for club

Durham nightspot to close its doors

Staff WritersOctober 7, 2005 

After some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting, a downtown club is to shut down voluntarily following the killing of a customer.

William Alfonso Gordon Jr., a Durham architect who holds the alcohol permit for Club 1000, has told city and state officials that he will surrender the nightspot's beverage license. Kim Grainger, the owner of 118 W. Main St., has also indicated she will end the club's lease and seek to sell the building.

"Essentially, that club is closed," City Manager Patrick Baker said Thursday. "Mr. Gordon understood the importance of this. ... That particular property has been a problem, and we are hoping new ownership will take the property in another direction."

Michael Kenion, 35, died early Saturday of multiple gunshot wounds after police say an altercation that began inside the club spilled out into the street. Durham police say they have identified suspects in the shooting and hope to make arrests quickly.

"We're working around the clock," said Durham police Sgt. Jack Cates, who is supervising the homicide investigation.

Though Club 1000 opened last month, it occupied the same space as MK's House of Jazz and R&B. That club earned an unsavory reputation with local officials after two teenage girls were wounded in separate shootings in December and January.

Though Club 1000 was supposed to be operating under new management, other downtown business owners complained to the city that the same men who ran MK's were operating the new club. Records show Gordon held the liquor license for both establishments, simply transferring the paperwork to the new name after the fallout from the previous shootings.

Gordon could not be reached for comment Thursday, but city officials said he agreed to give up the club's license at the personal request of Mayor Bill Bell.

"I told him he had to do something -- that the situation would not be tolerated as it was," Bell said, recounting a conversation with Gordon that occurred Monday. "He said that the club was causing him too much trouble and that he would take his license down off the wall."

Agent Jeff Lasater, with state Alcohol Law Enforcement in Raleigh, confirmed that Gordon called early Thursday and said he planned to turn in the permit for Club 1000. Once the state receives the papers, it will take one to two days to become legally inactive, state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission officials said.

But even if Gordon turns over the ABC permit voluntarily, he could still face penalties over his involvement with Club 1000. An inspection Saturday turned up two new violations of ABC policies, said Agent C.J. Bullock, an ABC investigator in Durham.

In a back room, Bullock found four empty liquor bottles with county tax stamps being stored in a box. Empty bottles are supposed to be thrown away and the tax stamps defaced, according to ABC regulations, to rule out potential fraud. It will be up to the state ABC Commission to decide whether Gordon is fined or otherwise punished for the violations, Bullock said.

When it became known after the most recent shooting that Gordon was involved with the operators of Club 1000, tongues began wagging and electronic mailing lists lit up with conspiracy theories.

Gordon works with George H. Williams, a politically connected local architect who has received many public building contracts. Williams is the brother-in-law of City Council member Howard Clement, who recently cast the deciding vote to award his relative's firm a lucrative design contract to build a new recreation center after city staffers had recommended a competing firm.

Some alleged that the city and the police were dragging their feet on shutting down Club 1000 because of politics. City Manager Baker addressed the issue at a council work session Thursday, demanding that those who made the statements recant .

At the same meeting, Clement denounced those involved with Club 1000 and suggested that the city impose strict new regulations to keep such an establishment from opening in the same location in the future.

Bell said that would be going too far.

"The issue for me is not the club, it's the club owners and the clientele of the club," Bell said. "If we get rid of those two issues, then for me it is no longer an issue."

Staff writer Michael Biesecker can be reached at 956-2421 or mbieseck@newsobserver.com.

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