Once again, the Birmingham City Council is considering the closure of a nightclub due to several instances of gun violence and other crimes.
This time, the club is Mahogany Social Bar and Lounge, at 1709 Third St. W in the city’s Rising-West Princeton neighborhood. The club opened there two years ago after its former location across the street burned down. Owner Montego Temple was arrested in December for operating without a proper license; he told councilors Tuesday that he’d continued to operate based on a “transfer letter” he received from the city.
Temple’s attempt to obtain a new liquor license and dance permit for Mahogany was met with open skepticism by many city councilors, including Public Safety Committee Chair LaTonya Tate and District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams, based on claims by police that the nightclub is a threat to public safety.
Officers told councilors on Tuesday that the club had been the site of 10 calls for service over the past six months, with reasons for the calls ranging from car break-ins to gunshots to fights inside the club. Temple insisted that five of those calls were placed on days the club was not open and argued that a nearby motel could just as easily be responsible for the incidents.
But Detective Victor Langford said that he witnessed several worrisome security issues while inspecting the club for the police department’s business compliance unit. At first, the problems he noticed were relatively minor — such as patrons smoking inside — but he became increasingly concerned when Temple could not present him with Mahogany’s safety plan and could not prove that his security camera system was working. Only one of the four security guards who were present would show him identification, Langford said, adding that one guard “told me he had been arrested a couple of weeks ago on a gun charge.”
Near the end of his inspection, a fight broke out inside the club — and after an unsuccessful attempt to intervene, Langford said he was forced to call 9-1-1 for backup. “It was just unbelievable,” he said, adding that he also saw Temple discourage one of the guards who had been injured in the fight from pressing charges. “He tried to say the situation was not as I observed and as everyone else observed,” Langford said.
Langford added that Mahogany is nicknamed “the Butt-Naked Club,” but did not elaborate why.
Temple argued to councilors that, “if I was that bad of a businessperson, this auditorium would be full of residents,” he said, referring to the revocation of Club Euphoria’s business license last October after a slew of community complaints. “You can’t find one resident!”
In fact, District 8 Council Carol Clarke said, neighborhood officers had written a letter supporting Mahogany and Temple. “I feel like you’ve improved,” she said. “When you first started, you were across the street and your patrons would trash (a nearby) church parking lot. After complaints, you cleaned it up, you stepped it up, and people I’ve talked to have expressed that you’re somebody who listened and responded to the complaints you were getting.”
Temple asked the council for a 13-week probationary period, similar to the one given to Club Euphoria last year, and promised that police would receive no calls to his location during that time.
Instead, after a lengthy executive session to discuss potential litigation, the council opted unanimously to delay the item for two weeks; another public hearing will take place during the March 1 council meeting.