NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Metro is moving to shut down an after hours club following a NewsChannel 5 investigation.
Metro lawyers filed a three-page complaint on Thursday claiming Dream Afterhours is operating without a proper license and is asking a judge to shut it down.
Dream Afterhours off Church Street opens after the bars close, on weekends only, and police have made numerous arrests involving weapons and drugs.
But our investigation raises questions about whether Metro has ignored a law that would have prevented Dream Afterhours and other after hours clubs from opening in the first place.
In 2007, the Metro Council passed a law regulating after hours clubs.
The law came after numerous shootings and arrests outside the clubs.
After hours clubs usually open at 3am, after the bars close, and allow people to bring their own alcohol inside.
The 2007 law, required clubs to register with Metro Codes, and file a safety plan that would be approved by police.
In 2008, the council amended the law barring people from bringing alcohol into the clubs.
"They enacted those laws and they sit on the books today," Jerry Bryson said.
Bryson noticed those laws last year, when Dream Afterhours opened beside him.
Bryson is no lawyer, he owns and lives in a catering and event venue on Church Street.
"It's crazy all these guns and violence in a place that didn't have it before," Bryson said.
From the roof of his business he points to the entrance to Dream Afterhours.
It blatantly advertises as an after hours club, and clearly tells people to BYOB, bring your own alcohol.
We watched one Saturday night after 2:00am and saw long lines, people bringing cases of beer inside, and others falling down drunk.
We saw lots of police, some checking parked cars.
In fact on November 24, police cited one of the club's security guards for having drugs and alcohol in his car.
The week before a man was shot in the leg outside the club.
And on December 23, two people were shot on the dance floor inside the club.
"They've had six or eight shootings, I've witnessed four of them," Bryson said.
Bryson asked Metro Codes why the club was even operating.
"That club by those laws should never have been allowed to open," Bryson said.
But most surprising, when he showed Metro Codes the laws, stating the clubs have to register, have a security plan, and no alcohol, they weren't sure if the law was even enforceable.
E-mails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Codes Director Terry Cobb told the Mayor's Office and the Chief of Police the Council "effectively gutted" the original after hours ordinance with its alcohol amendment in 2008.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Was there a belief here in Codes for years that this law was not enforceable?
Bill Herbert with Metro Codes responded, "Potentially yes."
Herbert is Zoning Administrator for Codes, and has just been on the job nine months.
He is now working with police to shut down Dream Afterhours after the Metro Legal Department said the law was not gutted and it is still in effect.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Why did you need that verification?
Herbert responded, "Well we had heard that there may have been a court proceeding at one time, though I didn't have any knowledge of that."
After Metro legal said the law was in effect, Terry Cobb wrote "Codes has a meeting"... "to develop a game plan to address this and other clubs operating after 3am."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Does it concern you that there are other out there like this?
Herbert responded, "It does absolutely concern me, and we'll take one at a time."
Herbert says Dream Afterhours got its permit as a nightclub, not an after hours club, essentially exploiting a loophole in the law.
The person on the permit changed his name after being convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1992.
Another man who has identified himself as a co-owner, is James Ferguson, who co-owned Yea Baby's, a club police shut down because it was a public nuisance.
"How can we fix this because apparently it's not working," Council member Karen Bennett said.
Bennett is chair of the Public Safety Committee and co-sponsored the bill banning alcohol from after hours clubs.
She was frustrated there was any question about whether a law on Metro's books was enforceable.
"When we pass legislation our hopes are that it will be handled appropriately and enforced," Bennett said.
But it's most frustrating for Jerry Bryson, who weekend after weekend has lived near the violence and chaos the laws passed years ago were designed to prevent.
"People have gotten hurt in these clubs, you know, after this law was passed and it was just dormant," Bryson said.
Metro has asked for a hearing on February 20, in which the owner of Dream Afterhours will state why his club should not be permanently closed.
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