While Huber Heights residents expressed outrage Monday night about a bar where two young men were gunned down two days earlier, the club’s owner vowed to keep it open.
City officials have tried to close down Heat Nightclub for more than a year and said they will seek a court order today to close the bar, said Alan Schaeffer, the city’s attorney.
“We’ve been fighting this thing over a year because of our concern that something terrible like this could happen, and it has,” Schaeffer said. “It’s very, very unfortunate. Bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be very aggressive going forward.”
Club owner and manager Jessica Kennedy, speaking for the first time since the shootings, told council during a public hearing she is “sorry this tragedy has happened.”
“I’m here to try to help as much as I can in this investigation,” Kennedy said. “I’m sorry for the men who lost their lives. …Unfortunately, this could have happened anywhere.”
Public records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show the city presented evidence of fights, gunshots and numerous police calls to Heat Nightclub in its quest to have the bar’s liquor license revoked. But two Franklin County judges rejected those arguments last month and allowed the bar to keep its right to sell alcohol.
Earlier in the process, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control agreed with the city, but the three-person Ohio Liquor Control Commission overturned that decision and said the bar should keep its license. The city appealed to the Franklin County court, but lost.
Kennedy said the city’s efforts to shut down her club are a “little unnerving, feels like harassment, like bullying actually.”
Heat Nightclub has a scheduled event Friday night, and Kennedy said the club plans to be open.
“I’ve done nothing wrong personally. I’ve broken no laws,” she said. “It’s unfortunate what has happened. I’ve never wanted anyone to die or lose their life in front of my establishment. I think anyone would feel the same.”
A capacity crowd filled council chambers Monday night, and several people spoke out against the nightclub, including resident Janell Smith.
“I would like to applaud the city for all of its efforts to get this establishment closed,” Smith said. “Every person here needs to talk to the people at the state level. This one establishment is draining the police department, and when all the police go to this establishment, it leaves the rest of the city vulnerable.”
Police Chief Robert Schommer said his department does not have any suspects, and it remains unclear how many guns were used, how many shooters there were and if the Saturday incident was gang-related. Nearly 20 shots were fired, Schommer said Monday night.
The department hasn’t discovered any surveillance cameras in the area that may have recorded the shooting at the club, he said. Broken glass and dried blood remained at the scene Monday evening.
“We had all the warning signs, and we did everything we could,” Schommer said. “Unfortunately, they were allowed to maintain and exist, and the worst of our predictions and thoughts occurred.”
Charles W. Bell III, 25, of Dayton, and Keenan Hall, 20, of Dayton, died from gunshot wounds they suffered outside the club at 6115 Brandt Pike after a fight inside spilled into the parking lot before 3 a.m. Saturday. Another unidentified man was injured.
Temicea Graham, a friend of the Bell family, said Bell was a “laid-back” individual and was at the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I hate that it happened,” she said. “It’s really sad.”
Previous police reports obtained by the Dayton Daily News revealed that officers patrol the nightclub parking lot around closing time between 2 and 3 a.m. on weekends.
Early Saturday morning, police were responding to another call less than half a mile away from the nightclub, Schommer said. Five police officers were on duty at the time of the shooting.
“It’s not safe, it’s never been safe, we didn’t want it in the first place and we still don’t want it here. There’s no secret about that,” Schommer said.
The club’s landlord, CR Dayton with offices in Dover, Del., and South Barrington, Ill., has not returned multiple calls for comment.
The city has spent more than $11,000 fighting the liquor license. Police have responded 248 times for noise complaints, illegal drugs and assaults at the club since March 1, 2012.
“Clearly, the events as reported are regrettable,” said Jackie Williams, executive director of the Liquor Control Commission.
Williams said the liquor control commission considered evidence from Huber Heights representatives, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the nightclub’s owners before voting 2 to 1 to overturn the decision of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and restore the liquor license.
“We have done everything in our power over the last year and a half to get this place closed down,” Huber Heights Mayor Ron Fisher said. “We’re not going to rest until it’s closed and out of the city.”
David Lockhart, a former security guard at Heat Nightclub, said he quit his job a few weeks ago after working there for six months.
“It was very dangerous, and I wanted to no longer work in a work environment that was that hostile,” Lockhart said. “The way things were run was unprofessional. I told (Kennedy) another shooting would occur and the next time somebody’s going to die, and basically I predicted it.”
Staff writer Mark Fisher contributed to this story.
The Dayton Daily News has covered Heat Nighclub’s troubles since Huber Heights City Council first objected its liquor license renewal in March 2012. We will continue to follow this story closely and bring the latest updates as they develop.
Bars and trouble
Other recent cases involving bars that were shut down in the Dayton area.
Higgins Station, Trotwood
Sept. 26, 2009, man fatally beaten in parking lot, the second homicide in the bar’s parking lot in 10 months. Oct. 29 judge rules the bar a public nuisance and closes bar for one year. The bar never re-opens.
Big E Bar
April 1, 2011: Shootout leaves one dead and three wounded. City Commission objects to renewal of bar’s liquor license. Bar closes.
88 Club, Dayton
April 21, 2011: After numerous disturbances, City Commission objects to the renewal of the club’s liquor license. July 13, club and furnishings sold in an online auction.
A List, Dayton
Sept. 22, 2011: Central State University student shot outside the lounge. April 25, 2012, the City Commission files an objection to the renewal of the lounge’s liquor license.
March 31, 2012, bartender shot. At the time, police said they were building a case to pull the downtown nightspot’s liquor license. April 25, City Commission files objection to renewal of the nightspot’s licence. The owner later shut down the nightspot and auctioned off the property.
Leo’s II, Trotwood
April 15, 2012, two men — one an undercover Dayton officer — shot in the parking lot. May 18 bar closes doors just prior to court hearing to declare it a public nuisance. Both victims recovered.