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The Castle Runs Dry

Prince Mongo temporarily prohibited from selling alcohol

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Between now and November 20th, the only spirits that will be found at the Castle are the ones Prince Mongo conjures. Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft temporarily enjoined Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges from selling or allowing the consumption of alcohol on the grounds of his controversial nightclub, The Castle, until a full trial is held on November 20th. “This is one of the few times I’ve been straight-down-the-line-right and gotten so much bullshit for it,” said Prince Mongo before the end of the trial. “I’ve been open for two years, why is all this fuss coming now?” Craft’s decision came after hearing testimony from undercover police officers as well as from concerned neighbors who feel the club has harmed their quality of life. “We’re not against him having a business,” says neighbor Meg McCord. “The problem is what he is doing with that business. We think it all stems from him serving minors.” McCord is not alone. Several neighbors sat in the court gallery all day, at times nodding in agreement and at other times moaning in disgust. Likewise, Prince Mongo, who also sat in the gallery, muttered his approval and disapproval, even standing to protest when Craft rendered his decision. This hearing came after months of complaints from residents in the Castle’s Central Gardens neighborhood, primarily from residents of the two high rise condominium buildings on either side of the Castle, the Townhouse Apartments and the Mansfield Arms. Bart Dickinson, who tried the case for the state called eight witnesses in the course of the all-day hearing, to prove the nuisance claim, including Mary Lowry, business manager of the Townhouse Apartments and Prince Mongo’s loudest opponent. Lowry, who testified to seeing fights, nudity, and the sale of drugs on the property, also submitted video tapes to the District Attorney that she made of events at the Castle. The tapes showed patrons drinking, yelling, dancing, and taunting her as she filmed. Lowry testified that she sits on her balcony filming the Castle from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., six nights a week. “I’ve got him on tape driving up and down Central Avenue saying, “Free Alcohol, Free Sex, Free Drugs” on the loud speaker,” Lowry told the Flyer. Prince Mongo’s attorneys, Leslie Ballin and Mike Pleasants, objected to Dickinson’s attempts to enter noise and parking complaints as evidence of nuisance. Under nuisance law, an establishment must be found to have instances of unlawful sale of intoxicating liquors, quarreling, drunkenness, fighting, and breaches of the peace. Judge Craft did not allow Dickinson to submit arrest tickets, or evidence of noise and parking violations, finding that these were not violations of the nuisance statute. However, Craft did find that there was sufficient evidence of nuisance to temporarily enjoin the Castle from serving alcohol. “I do feel the state has shown a pattern of quarreling and fighting, which has gone totally unsupervised on this property,” said Craft. “I don’t want to padlock his business, but I do feel that I need to enjoin Mr. Hodges and his business from serving alcohol pending a hearing.” Craft also enjoined Hodges from allowing the consumption of alcohol on the property, meaning that guest cannot bring their own alcohol. “This was just round one,” says Prince Mongo. “Wherever Leslie [Ballin] takes me is where I’m going next. We’ll have another trial, hopefully next time it will be with a jury and a different judge. In the end I’m going to take him [Ballin] with me to my planet.” The neighbors say they’ll be ready for the trial on November 20th, too. “Like Mongo says, that’s just round one,” says Lowry. “I’m going to go start videotaping for the next round.” (You can write Rebekah Gleaves at gleaves@memphisflyer.com)

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