With closure of Dream, Metro looks at after-hours clubs ... again

Monday, March 4, 2013 at 2:08am

The after-hours nightclub Dream quickly turned into a nightmare for the Metro Nashville Police Department and the Department of Codes and Building Safety earlier this year.

The club, which was open only from 2 to 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, had more than 35 calls for police service and four shooting incidents in less than three months.

And while Metro Codes officials quickly moved to shut down Dream, the incident has revived a call for clarification about Metro’s rules for public after-hours clubs. Councilwoman Karen Bennett, the chair for the Public Safety Committee, called for a meeting on Monday, March 4, to discuss the laws.

“We’re just going to have [Metro Codes and MNPD] come and tell us what they learned from the Dream investigation,” Bennett said. “There were some comments made perhaps that they felt like the [after-hours clubs] legislation passed in [2007 and 2008] was not working. If it’s not working, then let’s sit down find out what we need to do and take care of it legally, so ... we can have it doing the job that it’s supposed to be doing for the residents of Nashville.”

Bill Herbert, Metro Codes’ zoning administrator, believes the law is clear: Any establishment open to the public as an after-hours club between 3 and 6 a.m. must apply for an after-hours permit. After that ordinance was passed in 2007, The City Paper reported that 11 of 12 after-hours clubs were cited for not having a safety plan or failing to meet other permit standards.

The Metro Council revisited the issue in 2009 and added that after-hours clubs are prohibited from having alcohol on the premises.

After the alcohol prohibition was put in place, none of the after-hours clubs applied to renew their permits. As of today, there are no after-hours clubs legally registered to serve the general public in Nashville — the last permit expired in 2009. (Businesses regulated by the Sexually Oriented Business Licensing Board operate under a different set of regulations.)

When police received several early morning calls to Dream, located behind adult entertainment store Hustler near downtown Nashville, they got in contact with Metro Codes. According to Herbert, a nearby business owner complained to his department about violence and other activity at Dream.

Police records show MNPD responded to at least one call for service there during every weekend from Dec. 1, 2012, to Feb. 10 of this year, including New Year’s Eve. All the calls originated between 3 and 6 a.m. MNPD spokeswoman Kris Mumford said there was an additional shooting, not reflected in the calls for service, that stemmed from the club.

At first, there was some confusion about whether the after-hours ordinance was enforceable, Herbert said. So he enlisted the Metro Law Department to determine whether any court proceedings had affected the status of the ordinance. Metro attorneys affirmed that the ordinance was legal.

So MNPD and Metro Codes investigated Dream by sending a confidential informant inside.

“We wanted to determine whether the club was open to general public or not,” Herbert said, noting that some late-night clubs with private membership are perfectly legal. “The [informant] was able to get into the club, and the evidence we got was so good that we decided … to take this one directly to court.”

Metro sued Dream early in February in Environmental Court, a division of Davidson County General Sessions court. But the owners of Dream voluntarily agreed to shut down the club, Herbert said.

Herbert maintains that the problem isn’t with the ordinance, but rather the owners of Dream applied for the wrong kind of permit.

“I don’t really see it being a problem with the ordinance, so much. They told us they were going to do one thing, they ended up doing another,” Herbert said. “So when we got that information, we were able to act quickly to get them straight to a lawsuit and get them closed down.”

Dream apparently isn’t the only club that has skirted the rules. Jazz & Jokes in downtown Nashville hosted an after-hours event in September, but they were busted by the Metro Beer Permit Board and had to pay a $250 fine. 

That led Bennett to call for the meeting of the Public Safety Committee, which is composed of other council members.

“If there is need-be [for legislation], I’d be glad to sponsor it,” Bennett said. “If there’s a fix that needs to be made, then we need to address that and deal with it.”

The meeting is scheduled for March 4 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers of the Metro Courthouse.

5 Comments on this post:

By: amoobrasil on 3/4/13 at 8:37

People do not need to drink in order to make the most of recreation. Any belief to the contrary stems from a craving for alcohol (and other drugs) as escape. In short (generalizing, of course), people seeking out drugs as escape are unhappy with their lives because they are most likely unhappy with who and what they are, or who and what they (mis)perceive themselves to be.

God has commanded us to be our brothers' keepers. When society refuses to band together to seek out and help people in need out of loneliness, out of despair, out of dysfunction, etc., we excuse ourselves by blaming them for failure to exercise responsibility for their own lives. If such a posture were legitimate, then we would not seek to address the needs of our children in maturing out of dysfunction--or in seeking medical help when dysfunction requires it.

I am among those who believe that indifference is the opposite of divine love; in indifference and our willingness to tolerate misery, the (in the words of Valério Fabris) worst of human inventions, we affirm our sinful human nature.

Open such clubs or don't open them. But to acknowledge a NEED for escapist drug use of any type as legitimate is a disservice to ourselves, our children, our society, and to God.

By: lyndafjones on 3/4/13 at 9:53

Thank you Councilwoman Bennett!

By: kingofclubs on 3/4/13 at 11:59

Its funny how metro codes picks and chooses who to go after. There is 6 afterhours clubs in davidson county, whether at strip clubs or stand alone bldgs.. This story says there is no valid permits for afterhours. I ask you this ms bennett what is different from the 3 dedicated afterhours and the 3 non dedicated afterhours? NOTHING! Metro does what they want when they want. Let's get the real story out!!

By: TITAN1 on 3/4/13 at 2:10

Well said, amoobrasil!

By: courier37027 on 3/5/13 at 10:16

Amoo, there comes a point where society should expect their adult members to grow up. Da Vinci said God provides at the cost of an effort. When adults continually make poor decisions leading to drug use, alcohol abuse, having children they cannot afford, marriages ending in divorce, spending more than what one earns why should society reinforce this behavior through resources and stipends? At any point does a tree bearing fruit parable enter into the equation? Eventually these lonely people have to seek something better and different. We are not our brother's keeper as an instigator. Ask and ye shall receive puts first action on the one soliciting help. Enough of this hope and helplessness mentality. Success is found in action, work and discipline. Sadly too many people, perhaps generations, have resigned themselves to less than mediocrity.