Despite several recent shootings, Ensley’s Club Euphoria is staying open — for now. The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to give the venue 13 weeks to institute a safety plan and address neighborhood concerns, after which the council would decide whether to shutter the venue.
Tuesday’s public hearing followed the June 13 shooting death of 21-year-old Lykeria Briana Taylor, who was killed and her boyfriend injured after leaving the club in the early morning hours. A shooting at the club earlier that night had left three people injured.
The club also had been the site of gun violence in November 2019, when a shooting left four injured and one dead.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, many neighborhood residents expressed outrage over the violence, but they also raised concerns about the noise and parking issues the club has been bringing to the area.
Carl Chappell, who lives less than two blocks away, said he’d been forced to call the police multiple times over various issues with the club, including loud music in the early morning, patrons urinating in his yard and street racing that he said resulted from the club. “They have kind of lost control of it down there,” he said. “Whenever you’ve got people racing up and down First Avenue West and the average age of (residents) here is 60 to 70 years old, that’s not good. Particularly between 1 and 3 a.m.; that’s not appropriate … . It’s just too much for us to take.”
Costella Adams Terrell, president of the Rising-West Princeton neighborhood association, complained that club owners did not communicate with area residents. “They don’t notify the neighborhood of anything, and then we have the driveways blocked, the people are parking on our grass, the music is so loud that it rattles our windows,” she said. “I hate to shut down anybody, but I feel like if you’re going to be so disrespectful and disruptive in a community like this, then we don’t need you in our community.”
Several members of the public who called into the meeting were more sympathetic to club owner Morris Bradley. One caller, who identified herself only as Britney, said she was a small business owner who had once operated a pop-up shop at the venue. “I felt safe when I walked in,” she said. “It is a place for us to go and set up, to network, just to have a good time. … (Bradley’s) setup and his mindset, just watching him as a businessman, I felt like he was very organized.”
Another caller, who identified himself only as Justin, said he’d also operated a pop-up shop at the club, calling it “the number-one spot for local vending events, for local creatives to come in and be able to use the space to showcase their talents, network and be able to build connections with people throughout the city … . We may as well shut down Third Avenue or shut down the Bessemer superhighway or a couple of other spots if we’re going to blame the ownership for how people on the outside come in and act.”
Attorneys for Bradley asked the council to postpone revoking the club’s business license “and give us an opportunity to work with you all on a safety plan.” The blame for the shootings, they said, came from hiring local performers. “If you’re a local artist and have any problems with anyone in the city of Birmingham, they know exactly where to pinpoint you (at a show),” said attorney Christian Rice. A 90-day extension, she suggested, would offer “a solution more so than a second chance,” giving the club time to implement a safety plan that would include a greater Birmingham police presence.
Councilors were split on the idea. District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott worried aloud that more violence could happen at the club over the next 90 days. “What if another death occurs during our second-chance period?” she asked. “How are we going to feel about that, if we give these folks a second chance and another young person dies? That’s something that each of us is going to have to personally think about.”
District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt said that the venue was “perpetuating a nuisance” and argued that if councilors had elderly relatives living in the neighborhood, they’d be much quicker to shut Euphoria down.
But some, like District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, argued that the club should be given the 90 days as “an opportunity to make community relationships and come up with a plan.” He said he plans to tour the venue — as does District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods — before making a final decision.
The council ultimately voted to approve a 13-week period for Euphoria to shore up its safety protocols, though Abbott, Hoyt and District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams — also the council’s public safety chair — vehemently disagreed. The club’s owners will be required to provide updates to the council’s public safety committee every four weeks.
Before the vote, District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn speculated that the problem with violence extends beyond a single club and suggested the city put more resources into enforcing safety protocols at venues throughout the city.
“I think that the council and administration also have some accountability here, because this is not just this club,” he said. “There are clubs in my district, other people’s districts (that) have problems … . This is a lot of businesses that are in the entertainment space, some of them even owned and operated by Birmingham police officers, that have had similar type incidents, and we’re not talking about them today. I think there’s a bigger issue going on here that we need to address. … We can give these folks some time to create a safety plan, but if there’s no compliance, if there’s nobody whose job it is to get out there and make these folks follow that safety plan … then we’re really not addressing the issue.”