The head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau owns Club 152 along with Charlie Ryan and Bud Chittom. State drug agents and local prosectors closed it after getting an injunction in, of all places, Environmental Court, signed by Judge Larry Potter. The alleged nuisance includes fights, drug sales and other criminal activity reported to police since 2012 and observed by an undercover officer and an informant over the last five months.
"The law-abiding businesses and patrons of Beale Street deserve better than what Club 152 has allowed to happen, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich. A court appearance is scheduled for Monday. The "manager and owners" are ordered to appear.
Kane, father of three young children, said he coaches Weirich's child in youth sports. He said he and his partners bought the club and the real estate in 2009 "as a pure real estate play" because it is next door to Blues City Cafe, which they also own. They bought it with Rusty Hyneman but bought him out after a year.
"I"m one of the owners but I don't run the place. We didn't know drug sales were going on for six months," Kane said. "We fire people every week trying to get rid of bad employees. I'm outraged, and I want Beale Street to be a positive, safe environment for everyone."
He thinks the unnamed security employees selling drugs in the complaint are four part-timers out of 150 employees.
"We're not sure it was a manager" as alleged Weirich's petition, which says the atmosphere at Club 152 is "quite dangerous with busy crowds both in the club itself and on Beale Street at the heart of the Memphis entertainment district." Beale Street is getting unusual attention and television exposure this month due to Memphis In May and the Grizzlies run in the NBA playoffs. But the rowdy reputation of Club 152 precedes that, as Weirich's petition documents.
Club 152 is ranked Number 71 in Nightclub and Bar's "Top 100" for 2013.
The investigation went to considerable pains to document the sale and use of marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, and Percocet at the club, probably in part because of the high-profile location and ownership. Kane admitted it would be nearly impossible for a club manager not to recognize the smell if not the sight of employees and patrons openly smoking marijuana, as the complaint alleges. He and Chittom said that three years ago they went to then attorney general Bill Gibbons and said "we've got a problem" with drugs on Beale Street but nothing came of it.
Kane said he visits the club maybe five times a year, but not at 3 a.m. He described it as tourists on the first floor, urban on the second floor, and VIPs, big-spenders, and athletes on the third floor. The age limit for admission is 21.
"It draws a diverse crowd," he said. "It is not some rogue, dark, seedy terrible environment. We'll deal with it."
He predicted it will reopen within the month.
Monday's hearing should be interesting. Drug use and sales among bar and nightclub employees are not considered unusual by people who have worked in the business. Owners and managers are supposed to deal with it. Weirich says Club 152 crossed a line. The owners are nobody's fools. The Grizzlies will be playing at home next week. It's Beale Street. Enough said.