ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A downtown nightclub that's been the scene of several shootings in the last year will have its liquor license temporarily suspended.
According to Reign owner, Dana Kelly's attorney, the nightclub's license has been suspended and it will run through Sept. 27.
A hearing was held Friday morning which included testimony from Detective Abby Krull and several others with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department who assisted to the investigation into three shootings that took place around Reign on Washington Avenue.
Reign, a club downtown on Washington Ave, is having its liquor license reviewed at a public hearing today. Many neighbors argue it’s a dangerous place that needs shut down. Here’s a taste of surveillance video from last year just played at the hearing. @KMOV pic.twitter.com/QCkJrkcIiT— Caroline Hecker (@carolinehecker) September 10, 2021
Surveillance video from a shooting that took place on Dec. 12, 2020 was played during the hearing, in which an argument appears to be taking place outside of the front door of Reign. After the two apparent two groups continue arguing, shots are fired. One man can be seen firing his gun from the sidewalk toward the street. Moments later, he is shot and he can be seen being pulled into the front door of Reign.
Four people were shot in that incident.
The detective testified the 911 call came in at 11:30 p.m. Defense attorney for Reign Restaurant LLC, William Dailey, said Reign closed at 10:30 p.m. that night due to the city's COVID curfew for restaurants and bars.
Further, Dailey argued the man seen on the sidewalk holding a gun was not a patron of Reign and no surveillance video prior to the shooting proves he had been inside the club at any time.
The detective said upon the initial investigation, employees of Reign did not cooperate with providing surveillance video of the incident, a code violation. Dailey refuted the allegation, stating a Reign employee showed a short clip of surveillance video on his phone. Additionally, Dailey said another employee with Reign emailed the detective more footage of the incident a few days later.
But the detective said she asked for more footage and never received it, so a search warrant was applied for.
During cross examination, Dailey argued Reign is not responsible for violence that takes place in the immediate vicinity of the club.
Another piece of surveillance video was shown from an incident in August, showing people running and ducking for cover inside of Reign after hearing gun shots coming from outside. Upon cross examination, the detective said the shots were fired on the sidewalk across the street from Reign, on the north side of Washington Avenue.
In that incident, Krull testified the shooter was inside of Reign before the shooting and involved in an argument. The video appears to show security guards ushering several people out of the establishment shortly before gun shots are heard. A victim, who Krull said was struck by gunfire, is seen coming back inside and is tended to by other patrons.
Later during the hearing, two employees of the city's excise department testified about an encounter at Reign when they were investigating a complaint about the club staying open later than allowed.
Violence that downtown St. Louis continues to experience is becoming threatening to the city's bottom line. An alderman tells News 4, major companies are threatening to move out of downtown if things don't change.
At that time, Gwendolyn Cherry-Simms, acting as a liquor license inspector, said she and a co-worker were denied entry to Reign, blocked by security guards from entering. The front door was locked, she said, so they went around to the back of the building where they saw patrons exiting.
After about 20 minutes of being refused entry, Cherry-Simms said the owner, Dana Kelly appeared and they spoke.
In closing statements, Dailey said Reign is not responsible for the violent incidents that have taken place around the establishment and does not believe Reign serves as a detriment to the neighborhood. Further, he questioned if a complete suspension of the liquor license would make the area safer.
The St. Louis Chapter of the NAACP released this statement in response to Friday's hearing:
"If the opening of the City’s case against Reign Restaurant is a reflection of the City’s transparency than all black businesses are in trouble. The City led off with a video of a argument and shooting that occurred outside of Reign Restaurant December 20, 2020 as justification to why Reign Restaurant should lose its liquor license. The video showed a story that was half true for it was not a reflection of the what actually occur that night. Only under cross examination of the City’s witness (a SLMPD Detective) by Reign’s attorney did transparency take place. The Detective confirmed that what actually happened on that cloudy by mild December night that several males were in an altercation east of Reign Restaurant and as they moved from down the street in front of a closed Reign Restaurant, Reign’s security went outdoors to defuse the altercation which subsequently ended in gunfire and a victim being shot outside of Reign and pulled inside to await medical attention. None of the persons involved in the shooting were ever in Reign Restaurant and the off-duty police officers hired by Reign had already left because the Restaurant was closed. Why not tell the whole story? The City has a responsibility in matters in which it is the Judge & Prosecutor to ensure that the all the facts are a part of the record. Ironically, even our local daily newspaper posted a story after the hearing leading off with the video in question by failed to tell the whole story. There were other very telling facts disclosed by Reign’s attorney that seem to not make it into press coverings related to Reign; such as that fact that this stretch of Washington Blvd has seen close to five-hundred calls for service from January 1, 2019 - June 28, 2021 consisting of rapes, shootings, carjackings, armed robbery, etc. etc. etc. It is no secret that minority owned food & beverage establishments have significant hurdles is securing liquor licenses in certain parts of our City; and Downtown St. Louis is no exception. Segregation for African Americans is alive and well in St. Louis and for Black Owned Businesses is even worse."