FARGO — The owner of Africa Restaurant and Nightclub is pleading to city leaders to keep his liquor license.
Francis Brown says he spent $300,000 to get the liquor license.
Fargo City commissioners are holding a special meeting on Thursday at noon to address a license suspension recommendation from the city liquor board, deciding the fate of the business.
At Tuesday's commission meeting, Fargo Police chief David Zibolski presented the board with a long list of incidents sparking public safety and health concerns related to the nightclub. This includes reports of underage drinking, assaults, and the ongoing murder investigation of Dominique McNair. Authorities and the business owner said McNair was a bouncer at the nightclub. He was shot and killed in a parking lot outside the building in the early morning of May 23.
While the owner, Francis Brown, is admitting there are issues at the club, he said this is the first time the city has come to them about fixing these issues. He is denying that security staff kept guns in a fridge, and said they scan ID cards to prevent minors from entering the club.
Brown believes they were not given a fair shot to work with the city on addressing their concerns. He thinks they are moving to shut them down too quickly and says he is getting in touch with the NAACP.
"There are a lot of bars in the North Dakota and Fargo area that have a lot of issues, a lot of calls, a lot of violations," Brown said. "But they will never call an emergency meeting to suspend their license. I don't know why they're doing it. I feel that they are doing it because we are Blacks."
Kwame Omane, who identified himself as a management team member, said if the license gets suspended, the nightclub will not survive.
"Calling an emergency meeting in a matter of 24 hours after the city council meeting, it tells us that there's something more to it than what is happening," Omane said. "That's why we are here trying to get our side out."
Another management team member, Dr. Emmanuel Nojang, said they have already set up a new management team since Tuesday's liquor control board meeting. His team is doing a risk and vulnerability assessment based on their own actions, how it affects the community, and how they can address it. They are also looking into hiring a professional security firm.
"If there was an issue, we want to know, we want to change," Nojang said. "If it's something that's going to be a problem in our community, there's going to be a security issue for our community, we want to make sure we address them."
"We would love for them to tell us how to fix it, so we can make these changes. Suspending the license does not address the problem," he adds.
Brown is pleading for more time from the city commission to address these issues before they decide on his liquor license. He and the other management team members said this is one of the last businesses for the local African community, adding that they welcome the rest of the community to visit as well.
"Please do not take this from the community and give us more time," Brown said. "Like I said, we're changing the whole management team, and changing everything and will let you guys know. Please do not take this away from this community."
Nojang said from what they were told, the person who shot McNair is someone they do not know, and was just another customer. When McNair was shot, Brown said it was the first time his security team ever got their guns from inside the business. He denies his staff ever kept guns on their person at any other time.