Evenings get rough at Raleigh nightspot

Crowds thinning at Glenwood venue

Staff WriterMarch 22, 2006 

Corey Cooper won't be going back to Gino Russo's Oyster Bar and Restaurant on Glenwood Avenue.

Cooper, 26, used to be a regular on Wednesday nights, when entertainment included a heavy rotation of hip-hop music and a big crowd. But the Wednesday night events began attracting a rougher crowd in recent months, Cooper said, including a group of men who stabbed him and two other men two weeks ago in the parking lot outside the restaurant.

"I'm through with that for good," Cooper said, who underwent surgery for his eight stab wounds.

Since the beginning of the year, Raleigh police have arrested 44 people on Wednesday nights in Gino Russo's parking lot in Pleasant Valley Promenade for a variety of offenses: marijuana possession, carrying concealed weapons and displaying open containers of alcohol.

The arrests come mainly from undercover operations conducted by police officers from the city's District 21, which received complaints from neighbors about the noise, said Jim Sughrue, police spokesman. Officers also noticed the larger crowds.

March 8 was one of the few Wednesday nights that Raleigh police took off from patrolling the parking lot outside Gino Russo's. Cooper was stabbed after a series of fights broke out in the parking lot just before 2 a.m. March 9. No arrests have been made in the attacks that victims said were unprovoked.

Several months ago, Wednesdays began picking up in popularity for Gino Russo's, which features $15 to $25 meals as well as an oyster bar. Manager Jeff Morock said that he doesn't know what caused the shift but that he is concerned that a small portion of the crowd is rowdier than what the restaurant and nightspot usually attracts.

A nearby BP gas station began having two people work Wednesday nights because large crowds that gathered in the parking lot coincided with beer being stolen from the store's refrigerators.

"We've been looking at trying to tone it down," said Morock, by playing a larger variety of music -- including country -- and avoiding a nightclub-like atmosphere.

Last Wednesday, attendance had dropped off somewhat with plenty of empty parking spaces in front of Gino Russo's.

"A bunch of people stopped coming here because of the police," said Joseph Davis, 23, of Raleigh, as he left the nightspot. That night he and his friend Chris Martin, 22, already had seen a few cars get searched by police conducting surveillance in the area.

Wesley Terry also noticed the drop while he was standing outside Gino Russo's last Wednesday handing out fliers for Urban Flava, a clothing store on New Bern Avenue that he manages.

Terry became an unofficial town crier. As cars pulled up to ask him why the crowds were so thin, Terry informed them that three people were stabbed the previous week.

Terry said he is glad police are in the parking lot patrolling. He used to go to Gino Russo's for karaoke nights, but he has been avoiding Wednesday nights.

Why?

His eyes widen.

"Drama," he said, pausing for effect. "I'm too old for that trouble."

Staff writer Sarah Ovaska can be reached at 829-4622 or sovaska@newsobserver.com.

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