Augusta commissioners yanked the alcohol and business licenses for Super C's nightclub on Tobacco Road, where a teen was shot to death on the dance floor last month.
On the recommendation of Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength, commissioners voted 6-2 with two abstentions Tuesday to revoke the licenses held by club owner Charles Cummings, a recommendation triggered by repeated reports of gunfire, fighting and gang activity and the death of 18-year-old Stedmund Fryer in July.
Voting in favor of Commissioner Andy Cheek's motion to close the club were Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Jimmy Smith, Joe Bowles, Bernard Harper, Don Grantham and Mr. Cheek. Voting no were Commissioners Marion Williams and Calvin Holland. Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard and Commissioner J.R. Hatney abstained.
The vote followed a heated debate, with some commissioners questioning the sheriff's competence and suggesting a commission conspiracy to shut down black-owned nightclubs.
Mr. Cummings' attorney, Ben Allen, asked that Tuesday's hearing be continued for two weeks to allow Mr. Cummings to work with the community and the sheriff's department "to come to a workable solution."
A majority of commissioners rejected that request.
The board also rejected Mr. Allen's request that Mr. Cummings surrender his liquor license and be allowed to keep his beer, wine and business licenses. He said Mr. Cummings had taken steps to reform the club by changing the kind of music played and barring those younger than 21.
Sheriff Strength said commissioners were correct in saying that if Super C's were closed the teens would just go somewhere else.
"But if the right message is sent, these other bar owners in town will know the commission is not going to stand by and let this type of activity go on in their bar, and they will not let them patronize their establishment," he said.
He reminded commissioners that he told them last week that Super C's was a hangout for gang members and drug dealers.
"That's our job to know this," he said. "We have intelligence in these places. We have undercover in these places, and that's how we get our information firsthand."
Mr. Holland and Mr. Williams argued against revoking the licenses, and Mr. Williams wanted to know why the sheriff hadn't come to report the problems before.
Sheriff Strength said a check of the record would show that Super C's had been on probation one time and double probation another time.
"They have been up here," he said. "The commission makes those decisions. I don't."
Mr. Holland said if a fight starts at your house and ends up at Kroger's, you are not at fault.
"We've got to look at all of the different clubs that we have in this city," he said. "If we're going to revoke the license of Super C's club, we've got to be consistent about what we're doing in reference to the rest of the clubs, especially those clubs in the areas that are black-owned. And I'm looking at, and I see that, and to me I see somewhat of a conspiracy in terms of trying to close these different clubs down."
That brought a response from Mr. Cheek.
"The leadership of this city should be most concerned about the young men that get locked up at a young age that will never become anything but hardened criminals by continuing to find places where they can go and congregate, be involved in crime with drugs and gang activities and violence instead of saying, 'We will end this now,' " Mr. Cheek shouted.
"The bottom line is everybody in this city, no matter what they look like, they want their children to grow up and become something of themselves," Mr. Cheek said.
"That's right," said Sheila Fryer, the mother of Stedmund Fryer, who was at Tuesday's hearing.
"We are contributing to their downfall when we should turn that around and say, 'No, this is enough.' And any other place that's like this needs to be shut down," Mr. Cheek said to applause.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.