Washington Park — Police are investigating a shooting that occurred inside a recently opened adult entertainment club in the 5100 block of Bunkum Road.
Police had few details about the shooting. The victim was rushed immediately from the club to the hospital and was not at the scene when police arrived at the Main Street club, 5103 Bunkum Road.
Police Chief David Clark said the victim is a 27-year-old East St. Louis man. He said the unnamed victim was shot inside the club. Clark said police are still investigating the shooting.
Washington Park Mayor James Jones said Clark told him, "Nobody saw anything." He said he has been told that the victim was shot inside the business and that he thinks the victim will recover from his wounds.
Jones said he told the chief to close the business, and it will remain closed pending the outcome of an investigation.
The club opened on New Year's Eve on the site that once belonged to Tom Venezia and was later seized by the U.S. government when Venezia was convicted of racketeering.
The site was not supposed to be used again as a nightclub, at least as long as it was in the hands of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House.
The federal government donated the building to Bates House to be used to help the people of Washington Park in a positive way.
Bill Kreeb, executive director of Lessie Bates, said the building was donated to Lessie Bates in 1995. "We were supposed to maintain it as a not-for-profit community center for five years," Kreeb said "We did that for 15 years. With the cutbacks in state funding, we couldn't maintain it. The state owes us $1.4 million. That's been true since about 2008."
With the downturn in the economy, Kreeb said Lessie Bates could no longer afford the maintenance that the building required. So, a decision was made to sell it, Kreeb said.
The building was sold to Willie "Big Mack" McIntosh. "We put in the contract that the building could not be used for a nightclub. It was our understanding that it would be used for a convenience store," Kreeb said.
The place where the adult entertainment club is being operated now was the site of the old Washington Park Library. The conditions there were so bad that the building had to be closed.
Kreeb did not disclose the amount of the sale.
After McIntosh got the building, he sold it to Doug and Denise Tally. Tally opened the nightclub on New Year's Eve.
Kreeb said he learned later from his attorneys that the stipulation should have been put into the deed as well.
Kreeb said he is disappointed that the building is being used for a nightclub. He said it was his understanding that the Board of Trustees in Washington Park were not going to allow a nightclub to operate there.
Jones fought against that building being used as a strip club for a long time. The mayor said Sunday that after he talked with the FBI and was told that once the building was resold the restriction went away, he stopped fighting it.
"When Big Mac had the building, the restriction was on it. When he sold it to the Tallys (Doug and Denise), the restriction was nullified," Jones said. And, he said on the advice of his attorney, he stopped fighting the majority of board members who were in favor of it.
Jones said he is very disappointed to hear there was a shooting there.
"The citizens were afraid that this type of activity would happen. That's why I fought so hard against a club being there," Jones said.
Jones confirmed that the business owner is operating a topless club.
Jones said the majority board members at that time, Ann Rodgers, Ferris Williams, Darron Suggs and Joan McIntosh voted to open the club.
Suggs said he voted in favor of the club because, "We have multiple businesses on Bunkum Road. Why would the people want to discriminate against one club and keep it from coming on Bunkum Road? We all voted on this business a year ago I know whose behind it, but I am not going to disclose it," Suggs said.
Asked what his thoughts were about the shooting, Suggs said, "My heart goes out to the patrons of the entertainment business." And what does he think should happen to the business?
"The business needs to adhere to what the mayor is telling him to do until a hearing is scheduled," Suggs said.
"The mayor has to give the owner due process. He has to have a hearing so he can listen all of the allegations against that building," Suggs said.
"I am hoping we can resolve this matter and bring the business up to code according to the ordinances that are on the book. The citizens are the most important, we understand that," Suggs said.