Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Council Sends Questions About Controversial Night Club’s Business License to Committee Rather Than Revoking It

Allen Bailey and attorney Reginald McDaniel with CRU Lounge speak to the Birmingham City Council Tuesday. (City Council livestream)

The fate of a downtown Birmingham nightclub criticized for attracting crime remains unclear after the City Council held a public hearing Tuesday to discuss revoking the company’s business license.

The council ultimately voted to send the matter of CRU Lounge’s business license to the public safety committee, hoping to clear up several questions that became evident in the two-hour hearing.

A major question concerns CRU Lounge’s liquor license. The entity controlling CRU Lounge changed from CRU Lounge Birmingham LLC to a group called Gated Family LLC. Officials said this change would require a new application for both a business and liquor license.

“No one else would have standing with us,” said Summer Childers, licensing and compliance division director for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board

Council members asked Childers what would happen if the business kept serving alcohol. She said the board would notify state law enforcement of the activity.

Reginald McDaniel, an attorney for CRU Lounge, said the business had not received any official word from the ABC board concerning the discrepancy, but the company would work to remedy the issue as soon as possible.

“All we ask for is the chance to prove that we can do the right thing going forward,” McDaniel said.

State business records show Torica Cornelius as the registered agent for CRU Birmingham LLC. Allen Bailey told the council Tuesday that Cornelius gave him authority to conduct the business of CRU Lounge.

Bailey added that because he is a member of both CRU Lounge Birmingham LLC and Gated Family LLC, he believed the change would not affect the club’s licensing.

Councilor Hunter Williams asked Bailey what percentage of equity he has in the business. Bailey declined to answer, saying he didn’t want to give Williams an inaccurate number.

“I have absolutely no faith in a business owner who does not understand such a basic component,” Williams said.

According to city officials, CRU Lounge will have to reapply for a license with the city, but it will be able to remain open while only serving food.

Beyond the licensing, city leaders have taken issue with high levels of crime on or near the nightclub, which is on First Avenue North.

The city attorney’s office in early May sued the owners and operators of the business, requesting a judge shut it down. Officials say the business has been a hotspot for exhibition driving and other crime

Police Sgt. Kenneth Knight told the council Tuesday that the business has been a strain on Birmingham police for months.

Knight said that during a recent visit, police made several unplanned arrests as patrons walked up to officers while smoking marijuana or carrying firearms.

“The kind of crowd that they’re having come to their location is not good for the area,” Knight said.

The sergeant added that at the time of the visit, the business owners did not have a security plan in place.

Several residents living near the business spoke during Tuesday’s hearing. Many said they don’t feel safe when the club is operating.

“When the wonderful hum of the city turns from joy and happiness and celebration to dangerous driving and weapons display and people unable to walk across the street because the crosswalks are blocked and cars are running red lights, you get an uproar like this,” said Daniel Christiansen, the president of the Central City Neighborhood Association.

Bailey and his attorney said they have taken steps to make the business and the neighborhood safer. Those steps include scaling back Sunday events, hiring a public safety consultant, creating a safety plan and no longer working with promoters who attract large, raucous crowds.

They also stressed that issues like exhibition driving are a citywide problem, and the business cannot be held responsible for activities that happen off the property.

Bailey told the council that revoking the license would drastically impact his livelihood, but those of the 47 CRU Lounge employees.

Councilor LaTonya Tate said city leaders would like to see Bailey act with a greater sense of urgency.

“You really need to start over because it appears to me the previous business owner left you in a mess that you clearly do not understand,” she said.

In other business, the council:

  • Extended for another year an agreement with Jones Valley Teaching Farm to provide the Good School Food Program. The $805,000 for the program, which is being funded by American Rescue Plan Act funding from several council districts, provides Birmingham youth with employment and training to sustainably grow healthy food for the community while connecting them to career and postsecondary education opportunities, workforce development and professional support.
  • Voted to purchase property commonly known as the North Birmingham Elementary School at 2620 35th Avenue N. from the Birmingham Board of Education for $650,000.  According to city staff, the property will be used for future development to alleviate blight and further urban renewal and redevelopment plans for the area.