The War on Hip-Hop

Nightclubs draw minorities, they get dissed by the authorities. Rap ain't allowed in this white-bread town. Don't hire our Kops? We bust yo' chops. Word.

Chambers brought in Branford Marsalis, then director of the Tonight Show band, for an evening of jazz. He staged the alternative-rock group Nine Inch Nails. He had ladies nights that featured male strippers and were frequented mostly by white women. He hired Hispanic bands for Friday nights, and on Saturdays he attracted an urban black crowd.

Like the Jockey Club, the Roxy suffered from a human form of urban blight. Riffraff would gather in the parking lot near closing time to see who was at the club--and not always with the best of intentions.

But, for the Roxy, the kiss of death was Teen Night.
Chambers originally thought that Teen Night not only would be lucrative, but also would provide an entertainment opportunity for young people. He hadn't anticipated what they might find entertaining.

After the shootings, Chambers discontinued Teen Night, and he and his lawyers met with Howard Adams of the liquor department to tell him so.

Police reports that were written after the second shooting near the Roxy--the one that ended on Adams' doorstep--specifically stated that the gunfight occurred after the club was closed: "All six [security] officers made sure the entire parking grounds were cleared without anyone loitering, after the Roxy establishment was closed ... the officers for the Roxy secured before 0130 hrs and left the premises."

According to Chambers and his attorney, after the second shooting incident, all Adams requested was that the Roxy discontinue Teen Night, a move that had already been made. Adams even wrote a number of editorials in the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette exonerating the Roxy of poor security practices. (Adams did not return phone calls from New Times.)

"While some people involved in the altercation may have been at Roxy's earlier," he wrote on June 21, "there is still no indication that any of those involved in a shooting or gang activity were there. Certainly it's known that the altercation took place quite a distance from there.

"Our records indicate that it is the general policy of Roxy's to have off-duty Phoenix police officers working for it, and these same officers completely clear the Roxy's exterior premises at closing."

But letters poured in to the city Planning Department and the state liquor department. The nearby restaurants--some of which opened after the Roxy had been operating for years, and which on most nights were closed before the Roxy crowd started arriving--complained of the threat of Roxy patrons. Personnel from one of those restaurants told TV reporters that there had been a Roxy-related shooting right in the lobby of the restaurant; it never happened.

The management of Town & Country Shopping Center, which twice had sued the Roxy over the use of parking spaces at the mall by the bar's patrons, wrote to club owner Vincent Leparulo of safety concerns. Town & Country sent copies of the letterto the mayor, the city Planning Department and the state liquor department.

Leparulo wrote back answering each point, and then added a point of his own.
"In closing," he wrote, "we have a question for you and would appreciate your specific response. Is it your standard practice to copy government officials on all letters to tenants, or is your practice only to copy government officials on letters to lessees that you have taken to court to vacate a million dollar investment over ten or so valet parking spaces during off peak hours?"

Chambers then began negotiating with Commander Thomas. Until the shootings, Chambers had voluntarily hired off-duty officers to provide security at the Roxy. In fact, he claims that, on the night of the second shooting, he had asked for more officers than the police were willing to give him.

Thomas now wanted to impose higher numbers.
"They wanted me to put seven officers at the club at all times," Chambers says. "I said, 'Fine, we can live with that on the weekends, when we're running 1,000 people through the club. But I'm not going to put seven officers with 100 people out here. It's unreasonable.'"

On June 13, Thomas yanked the work permits for the off-duty officers--meaning the Roxy could not hire them. Then, one month later, the city moved to suspend the club's use permit.

After midnight on July 19, two groups of Hispanics drinking at the club started flashing gang signs at each other. Chambers claims that he was able to get one of the groups out the door before trouble started.

When he came back inside, he found a man he did not know talking on one of the club's business phones, and he claims that he took the phone away and hung it up.

The man was James Meeks, a Maricopa County probation officer. Meeks acknowledges that he did not immediately identify himself to Chambers.

When the other club patrons saw Chambers struggling with Meeks, they ran to Chambers' assistance. A free-for-all broke out.

Meeks claimed he was trying to call 911 to report a fight, and Chambers assaulted him to keep him from doing so. He filed charges against Chambers.

Witnesses--and police reports--indicate that Meeks, who had been drinking in the club, did some of the pushing involved in the alleged assault.

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