FARGO — The Fargo City Commission is holding a special meeting Thursday, July 1, to discuss suspending the liquor license of a nightclub and restaurant that was the site of a deadly shooting in May.
On Tuesday afternoon the Fargo Liquor Control Board unanimously passed a motion recommending that the City Commission suspend the license of Africa International Restaurant and Nightclub at 4554 Seventh Ave. E. in Fargo.
City Auditor Steve Sprague, who oversees liquor licensing matters, said it would be the first suspension sanction that he could recall in his 22 years on the job.
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The City Commission announced late Wednesday afternoon that its members will discuss the suspension at a rare special meeting in City Hall at noon on Thursday. The announcement indicated that they were ready to issue the liquor license suspension because of public safety and health concerns.
At Tuesday's liquor board meeting, Police Chief David Zibolski provided members with a long list of incidents at the bar, including the killing of 28-year-old security employee Dominique Dewayne McNair in the early morning hours of May 23. Police have not publicly named any suspects in the case.
Zibolski documented several other violations in April and May, including overserving of patrons, fights in the parking lot, serving of a minor, disorderly conduct, loud music, assaults, and shots being fired outside the club. The establishment also allegedly sold a bottle to a customer even though it does not have an off-sale license.
In one of the stranger incidents, the chief reported that police responded to a call at 11:20 p.m. on May 29 from a party bus driver who said the 30 patrons who had been at the bar were highly intoxicated, with some urinating inside the bus. In another report, a woman fired gunshots outside the bar about 12:30 a.m. in a domestic case that resulted in charges.
In much of his presentation to the board, Zibolski focused on security issues at the bar, at one time telling members that a security guard performing patdowns and checking bags as patrons entered the bar was actually a felon who shouldn't have been handling any firearms.
The chief showed board members security video of three men holding handguns in the bar on the night of the fatal shooting outside. Two of the men were said to be security staff, while the third person hasn't been identified.
Video shows them walking through the bar and the kitchen, and in at least one instance, a man placed a gun in the kitchen's refrigerator where security staff reportedly kept their weapons, Zibolski said. In another instance, the handgun is put into a bag the man was carrying.
Brown told detectives that one of the men was his chief manager and the other was head of security, but he didn't know the third person, according to Zibolski. The police chief told board members that he did not believe that the managers and owners are being honest about safety at the business.
Because of the "prevalence of violence, over intoxication and disorderly conduct," Zibolski recommended the license suspension with the length to be determined by officials.
City ordinances allow such suspensions or revocations to address disorderly conduct at bars and to protect public health and welfare.
Liquor Board Chairman and City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn called the ongoing issues at the business "downright scary."
New liquor board member Robert Nelson said the establishment appears to have "extreme negligence from the top down.". He said the suspension was needed to see if they could obtain "competent management" to oversee the operation.
Board member Lydia Tackett said an employee getting killed at the bar was a major issue and that all employees should feel safe at their jobs.
In defense of Africa, lawyer Stephen Baird said the business dealt with all the violent situations "retroactively."
The business has revised its screening practices for armed patrons and has also employed a scanner to detect fake identification cards and to keep track of patrons who have gotten in trouble before, he said.
Those who get in trouble at the bar in fights or become over-intoxicated are now put on a "ban list," he said.