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Springfield after-hours nightclub where shootings took place shouldn’t have been open, according to city officials

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - First of all, after-hours nightclubs are allowed in Springfield.

Per Section 70-351 of the City Code:

“After-hours establishment or after-hours club means any establishment open to the general public at any time between the hours of 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., which has for its primary purpose, teen clubs, dance clubs, and establishments which feature the playing of live or recorded music. If the establishment requires a transfer of money or goods upon entry, contains a dance floor, or uses either a disc jockey or a live band, it shall be considered an “after-hours establishment,” regardless of whether the establishment serves or sells prepared food for consumption.”

But according to Brock Rowe, the interim director of building development services who oversees building permits in the city, an after-hours nightclub at 420 South Scenic where shootings occurred early Sunday morning should not have been open because it does not have a business license yet.

On Monday workers could be seen replacing a glass door at the small business building located next door to a U-Haul rental office and two doors down from a convenience store. It was there at what was identified as the “True Empire Nightclub” that police responded to shots fired around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. A person who witnessed the incident called it a “gunfight” outside the club where there were about 40-50 cars parked. According to police two gunshot victims transported themselves to the hospital with minor, non-life-threatening injuries and it’s unclear if the suspects or victims knew each other. Authorities also said they have no motive or suspect information at this time.

The owners of the club did not speak on camera but did want to point out that the incident occurred in the parking lot, not inside the club. And that it’s something they’ve never had to deal with before.

And the club had applied for a certificate of occupancy.

“This club’s application says that it’s geared towards youth to have a place to go and have karaoke, pool tables, arcade stuff, and things like that,” Rowe said. “And one of the conditions for their requirement is that no food or alcohol will be served there.”

Rowe said the problem though is that the application process hasn’t been completed yet.

“We approved the application and we’re actually supposed to go out and do an inspection on it and we have not yet done that,” he explained. “So they currently don’t have a certificate of occupancy for this location and they should not be operating at this point. Currently, they don’t even have a business license because they don’t have that certificate of occupancy and they shouldn’t be occupying the building. No business in Springfield, whether it’s a nightclub or Hardee’s, should be allowed to occupy it because technically it could be a dangerous building if there are issues. We go out there with the fire department to make sure it’s okay for people to be there and until that happens, a building is considered unsafe.”

Sunday morning’s shooting incident is just the latest in a trend of more gun violence over the last five years in Springfield where shots-fired calls increased from an average of 180 a year to more than 300.

“We have an increase in injuries and homicides related to gun violence,” Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams pointed out recently in an interview with Francis Watson. “But almost universally it is between people who know each other or have some type of interaction.”

Several residents, we talked in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred refused to be interviewed on camera, but one woman did say that she doesn’t consider the neighborhood to be safe.

There are signs marked “Private Property” and, “No Trespassing” all around the area, and a sign on the property next to the nightclub says, “Do Not Enter-No Exceptions”.

The woman also said she was awakened by the incident on Sunday morning but had become so accustomed to hearing gunfire in the area that she just turned over and went back to sleep.

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