Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council Won’t Revoke License of the Former Onyx Lounge

Feb. 27, 2018 — Following a public hearing during Tuesday’s meeting, the Birmingham City Council decided against revoking the business license of Blu Nightlife Lounge, formerly known as Onyx Lounge.

The nightclub became the center of controversy following the Oct. 15 death of Maurice Morris, who was shot on the club’s back patio. On Nov. 7, the council voted to give the nightclub 16 weeks to implement changes to address safety concerns.

Tuesday’s meeting came at the end of that period, and the council appeared satisfied with the changes. Law enforcement officers told the council that they had not received any calls or complaints during that time, a stark contrast to the 81 calls they had received about Onyx between May and November 2017.

Several occupants of the surrounding neighborhood, including Graymont Neighborhood Association President Willine Body, said that one issue with the club — the disruptive late-night music and noise — had not been resolved. “We as leaders of the city are supposed to protect our people and make sure they have a peaceful way of life,” Body said.

Officer Helen Cannon, whose beat includes Blu Nightlife Lounge, said late-night partying happening outside the venue was still a concern. “People live across the street from this place,” she said. “If this place stays open until three o’clock in the morning, that’s the problem that my neighbors have.”

Angela Watson, president of the College Hills Neighborhood Association — another nearby neighborhood — described the club as having a “mean spirit,” and said the venue’s continued operations could reflect poorly on the city during this summer’s Neighborhood’s USA Conference, which will be held in Birmingham.

“No one wants to live in this kind of chaos,” she said.

But the council ultimately was persuaded by the venue’s newly implemented corrective action plan, including efforts to soundproof the back patio, make sure patrons could safely return to their cars and limit the venue’s hours of operation. The venue also added security measures, including a full-body metal detector and an ID scanner.

“They haven’t broken any laws based on the security plan we voted on,” said District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales. “What else can we ask (them) for?”

Also critical to the council’s decision was the lack of complaints received from the surrounding neighborhood since November.

“I’ve listened and I’ve heard,” said District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, “and unless I was deaf, I didn’t hear any complaints of the noise ordinance.”

District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, whose district includes the nightclub, said that he had not received “any feedback from residents for something that has strayed from the corrective action plan.”

After the public hearing, the council decided not to revoke Blu’s license, opting against even bringing the item to a vote.

According to the corrective action plan, the club’s security plan will be periodically monitored by Foster Experts, a private law enforcement expert witness company.