A local alcohol board has recommended denying license renewals for clubs Kalakutah and Onyxtwo Indianapolis bars with a history of shootings, assaults and other violence.
The Alcoholic Beverage Board of Marion County voted unanimously on Monday to deny the renewals, deeming the clubs public nuisances and sending its decisions to the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission for final approval.
“It’s like you just don’t care,” board member Peter Luster said after a vote was held to recommend the denial of Club Kalakutah’s permit. “The applicant does not maintain a high, fine reputation and it does not have a good moral character.”
Located in the Lafayette Square area, Club Kalakutah is operated by Kalakutah Republic Grill. The night club was the site of a February 2022 shooting that left 25-year-old Secoya Williams dead in the parking lot.
Onyx Indianapolis:Indianapolis strip club closes after police raid
IMPD and the leaders of three neighborhood groups testified against the renewal of Club Kalakutah’s license.
IMPD Capt. Christopher Boomershine, who leads the department’s commercial crimes branch, identified six shootings or reports of gunfire outside the club. Those included the killing of Williams, which Boomershine said began with a dispute inside the club. In a separate incident, one of the club’s security guards shot a man in the leg, Boomershine said.
At least four assaults were also reported at the club. One involved a 19-year-old victim, Boomershine said. Nobody under 21 is supposed to be admitted to the club.
Vice detectives and excise police also discovered marijuana use in the club and a server without an alcohol permit. When the ATC declined to extend the business’s license in December, it continued to serve alcohol, according to its most recent citation.
“There’s a trail of violence and death related to this operation,” Boomershine said. “Please do not renew this license.”
Despite problems, the ATC took no steps to shut the club down. Even after Akinbolawa was charged last year with corrupt business influence, theft and failure to pay taxes, the club remained open.
Akinbolawa chalked up most of his violations to misunderstandings, but acknowledged he had made mistakes.
“I’m very sorry for everything that I’ve done,” he said.
Club Onyx in Indianapolis closed Feb. 28
Club Onyx, a south side strip club located in the 4400 block of South Harding Street, abruptly closed on Feb. 28, roughly one week after Indianapolis Metropolitan Police raided the club and arrested several employees on prostitution, gun, alcohol and drug charges.
IMPD Det. Tiffany Mastin played videos of a shooting at the club last year and an undercover sting at the club in January and February. The graphic video showed dancers performing simulated sex acts on undercover officers and engaging in what the police called public nudity.
Mastin also described at least 10 reported assaults at the club, some allegedly perpetuated by bouncers or other employees.
‘Her light will just keep shining’:After fatal shooting, mom honors daughter’s life
In one case last year, a security guard grabbed a woman by the neck and dragged her on her stomach to the entrance even though she stated multiple times that she was pregnant, Mastin said.
In another case, management told a detective that the only security camera that would have captured the assault “had recently experienced a power surge and the video was unrecoverable,” Mastin said.
There were also at least four shootings reported at the club. Some of them involved heavily armed unlicensed security guards, she said. One shootout between a gunman and security guards left a bystander injured. An excise police investigation found the shooting took place after the club was serving alcohol after the 3 am cutoff. Another incident resulted in security guards firing towards a neighboring motel, Mastin said.
Thefts were also common at the club, she said. At least 12 vehicle break-ins in the club’s parking lot resulted in 13 stolen firearms.
She said even after IMPD arrested the owner of the club’s security company for operating without a license, the club hired another security company that was also unlicensed in Indiana.
Ryan Carlson, who described himself as representative for the club’s owner, acknowledged the club had served patrons after hours.
But his attorney, Mark Webb, who is also a former Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission official, objected to much of the evidence presented by police, calling it hearsay because it hadn’t been adjudicated yet.
They said the club voluntarily closed its doors last week to address IMPD’s concerns with plans to re-brand the strip club in an effort to install different management and attract a different clientele — although board members were quick to remind Carlson that good business practices start at the top with ownership.
Carlson and his attorney also blamed some of the club’s problems on an IMPD policy prohibiting off-duty officers from working at strip clubs. Carlson, who operates strip clubs across the country, said that’s not the case in more “sensitive” municipalities.
Graves, the local board’s chairman, took exception to that characterization. He also called out Carlson for commenting during one of the undercover police videos, “That’s your taxpayer dollars at work.”
Police say they’re powerless to shut down problematic bars, clubs
The local board’s decisions come after an IndyStar investigation published last month that detailed unchecked violence at Indianapolis bars, clubs and event centers.
In all, IndyStar identified more than 600 reports of violence tied to 80 alcohol establishments since 2016. That includes 49 homicides, more than 150 shootings, 20 stabbings and 37 rapes or sexual assaults.
IMPD and city officials say they are powerless to shut down bars, even after scores of police runs and multiple shootings. That’s because a decades-old state law that explicitly prohibits cities and counties from regulating alcohol establishments. Only state regulators at the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission have that authority.
49 killed, 154 shot or stabbed: How Indiana law protects bad bars
But IndyStar’s investigation, produced in partnership with Fox59, found that the ATC does not track violence at bars and is severely understaffed. It’s alcohol enforcement efforts have fallen dramatically over the past decade and bars have remained open even after police arrested the owner.
Board member Peter Luster said Monday’s meeting was the first time during his four years on the board that he can remember denying two license renewals.
Graves, the board’s chairman, said: “I’ve never been more confident in a vote the board has taken than in the two votes taken today. Those votes needed to be cast and they were cast correctly in my opinion.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at 317-444-6081 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @IndyStarTony.
Contact IndyStar reporter Alexandria Burris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @allyburris.
This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: Indianapolis clubs Onyx and Kalakutah deemed public nuisances