FARGO — The Fargo City Commission on Tuesday, July 27, voted to extend the suspension of the liquor license held by the Africa International Restaurant & Nightclub pending the tavern's reapplication for a license, which could require a new round of background checks for the nightclub's owners and manager.
On July 1, the city commission issued an immediate interim suspension of the tavern's license due to public safety concerns pending a hearing on a recommendation from the liquor control board that suggested the city suspend the bar's license for 60 days.
That subsequent hearing was held Tuesday, during which city commissioners heard from City Auditor Steve Sprague and Police Chief David Zibolski regarding concerns the officials said should be weighed in considering whether the tavern's liquor license should be continued.
Sprague said one issue involves ownership and management at the Africa nightclub, as one of the owners listed on the original application for a liquor license, Francis Brown, had a felony charge in his background, something which traditionally would prevent a license from being issued.
According to Sprague, Francis Brown ultimately removed himself from the list of owners of the business and his wife, Mballu Brown, was listed as an owner and a manager instead. Sprague added that Francis Brown continued to list himself as a manager of the business in license renewal documents.
Cory Schultz is also listed on city liquor license documents as an owner of the nightclub.
Sprague said the business also recently underwent a number of management changes, with Daniel Omane now identified as the general manager and a representative for the business.
"It's been very confusing for us to know who we're supposed to be communicating with," Sprague said.
Zibolski shared a number of issues police have relating to the nightclub, including people being allowed in the bar after hours, the serving of alcohol to at least one underage individual as well as disturbances near the bar, including fights.
Zibolski made a point of telling commissioners that earlier statements he made regarding problems with a party bus were in error and the incident in question was not believed to be tied to the bar's operation.
Zibolski also made reference to a fatal shooting that occurred in May in a parking lot near but not on the Africa nightclub property that involved the death of Dominique Dewayne McNair, 28, who worked security at the nightclub.
Zibolski said surveillance video showed that on the night of the shooting at least one underage person was in the nightclub and he added that three individuals, later identified to be bar employees, were seen on video as being in possession of guns inside the bar after the shooting.
He said McNair, a convicted felon, was armed at the time of the shooting.
Speaking on behalf of the Africa nightclub, which is located at 4554 7th Ave. E., Omane told commissioners it felt to him like the bar was being picked on for unfair reasons and he underscored the police chief's admission that erroneous information was presented to city officials at an earlier meeting.
Omane also stressed that McNair was not on nightclub property when he was shot, so any firearm he may have had on him at the time had nothing to do with the bar.
According to Omane, a music video was being filmed in a parking lot near the Africa nightclub and McNair was watching what was going on.
"Everybody was off-duty at the time," Omane said.
"We are not breaking any laws whatsoever," Omane told commissioners, adding: "We lost one of our own people. He was shot and killed. And now we're being blamed for that?"
In his comments to commissioners, Omane stressed that the Africa nightclub is not just a bar, but a cultural center for New Americans and other minorities.
Besides that business, he said, "There is not one single nightclub for us."