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Harp “Outraged” At Key Club Reopening

by Melissa Bailey | Jan 13, 2014 11:01 pm

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Liquor control agents planned to hang out at a strip club opening Monday. Meanwhile, Mayor Toni Harp said she’s not happy the state is letting the club reopen at all.

The club at 133 Hamilton St., is better known under its former name, The Key Club, where mass shooter killed a young fashion designer named Erika Robinson on Oct. 26.

The club owners voluntarily suspended their liquor license after the shooting.

The same owners who ran the Key Club planned to reopen Monday night under a new name: Primo Gentlemen’s Club, Mayor Harp announced at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Standing beside Police Chief Dean Esserman in the mayor’s conference room, Harp called it an “outrage” that the state is letting the club reopen.

Harp said the city has provided the state Department of Consumer Protection Commission with police reports showing copious criminal activity at the club in the past 18 months, including gun arrests, fights between staff, fights between patrons, the assault of a cop by a bouncer, and “widespread public drunkenness.”

Melissa Bailey Photo Harp sent a letter Monday to Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein calling on him to suspend or revoke the club’s license.

“I am concerned about the resumption of operations at an establishment where one life already was lost, many other lives were seriously threatened,” and the city has made the state aware of rampant “lawlessness,” Harp wrote. In the Oct. 26 shooting, a gunman killed Robinson and wounded five others when he opened fire inside the strip club at 3:30 a.m. during a crowded private party. Police have charged a gang-banger named “Corn Bread” with the crime.

The state “shares Mayor Harp’s strong concern for the safety of New Haven’s citizens,” said Department of Consumer Protection spokeswoman Claudette Carveth said in a statement Monday. The club has remained closed since the mass shooting because it didn’t have an adequate security plan, she said.

Carveth said the club has now come up with such a plan. The club has agreed to:

• Install security cameras
• Hire security guards
• Conduct background checks of all staff
• Hire two extra-duty city cops at the club from 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday until closing.
• Scan all clubgoers with a metal detector and pat them down if need be.

Liquor control agents will be at the club starting Monday to “monitor compliance with the plan,” Carveth said. “If the club does not adhere to the terms of the security plan, the Department has the option to immediately summarily suspend the liquor permit.”

Carveth said the state has been investigating whether the club’s liquor permit should be revoked. “The Department has been limited in its ability to access to key evidence in that investigation due to important evidence being withheld so as not to compromise the ongoing homicide investigation and prosecution. When this important evidence is made available, the Department will be able to move forward with a determination about the a revocation of the club’s permit is warranted.”

If the state moves to revoke the license, the club would be guaranteed a public hearing, Carveth said.

The club owner, Fuun House Productions, LLC, could not be reached for comment for this story.

Robinson’s family has vowed legal action against the club.

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