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Maplewood City Council shuts down Stargate after brazen shooting
Some 70 shots fired in incident that injured five
At a special city council meeting convened Feb. 22 following a chaotic shooting incident at Stargate Bar & Nightclub, Maplewood City Council members unanimously agreed the club, located at Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue, will remain closed until it meets all building, health and fire codes.
Additionally, the council agreed to hold a hearing at its Feb. 27 meeting to either suspend or revoke the liquor license held by the business.
Despite media reports that Stargate owner Paul Xiong plans to give up on his business, Maplewood City Manager Melinda Coleman said she was told Xiong is not prepared to give the city official notice of his intentions to close.
As a result, the planned administrative hearing remained on the Feb. 27 city council agenda. The meeting was held after the deadline for this edition of the Review.
The required club updates and the administrative hearing are in response to the shooting that occurred around 1:30 a.m. Feb. 18, leaving five people wounded. More than 35 officers responded to the scene, including officers from the Maplewood, St. Paul and Roseville police departments, as well as responders from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.
Stargate Nightclub has not been open for business since the shooting when police ordered its emergency closure.
“What brings us here today, I think, is really kind of looking at a history,” Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said at the Feb. 22 meeting, pointing out Xiong took possession of the club in April 2016, although the violent history of the business began more than 13 years ago.
According to Schnell, there were 12 incidents at Stargate in 2015, including a homicide that occurred in the parking lot, and in 2016 the number of incidents jumped to 21.
Schnell cited a recent “uptick in assault behavior” and said he met with Xiong on Feb. 13 to discuss the violence the Monday before the recent shooting.
“Our experience working with Mr. Xiong has been favorable,” Schnell said, though he added that he and other city staff members do not believe the business can safely function without significant changes.
“At this stage of the game, we don’t believe that the ownership or the management structure that’s currently in place are able to control the business environment that they are operating, and this has resulted in the necessity for higher levels of police intervention,” Schnell said.
“The level of violence that we see at Stargate is something that is not commonplace in Maplewood,” he added, “and frankly is not common in many nightclub environments.”
City can’t close
Stargate manager Maysea Xiong spoke on behalf of the business, asking that the club remain open and blaming the incident on the crowd and the contracted entertainment promotion company.
“We are asking that our licenses are not going to be revoked based on one incident,” Maysea Xiong said. “I’m asking that our door be open so that we can generate revenue — so that we can fix the place up and be in compliance with city code.”
Council member Bryan Smith pointed out the city requested existing code violations to be fixed when the business owners went before the council over the summer of 2016, and because they still haven’t been brought up to code, he does not have confidence they will comply with additional code and security measures.
Council member Marylee Abrams pointed out that eight months ago, Xiong told the council he would be enhancing the family-friendly and dining options at the club, though it seems these plans were never acted on.
She also pointed out the shooting affected other businesses in the area, as well as nearby residents of Maplewood, Roseville and St. Paul.
“I frankly don’t see a lot of upside to having this business in our community,” Smith said, adding he would prefer to see Maplewood’s resources allocated toward helping the many businesses that are assets to the community.
“It’s going to take more than shutting down the small business owner” to stop shootings in public places, Maysea Xiong said. She added that gun laws must be changed to stop these tragedies.
Despite the shooting, the Maplewood City Council cannot vote to outright close the club.
“Many people just want Stargate shut down once and for all, but the simple fact is we are not legally able to do so,” said Mayor Nora Slawik.
Conditions for reopening
After police responded to the Feb. 18 shooting, they noted several safety concerns and code violations at the club. Schnell recommended on behalf of city staff that Stargate stop all business operations until the city can verify the business is compliant with all codes and is safe again, in order to resume business.
The Maplewood City Council agreed, voting unanimously on a host of conditions.
Before Stargate can reopen, it must be in full compliance with all city building code requirements, city and state health inspector requirements, city and state fire marshal requirements and city code requirements. In addition, there will be random quarterly inspections of the business.
The existing video surveillance system must be fully operational and expanded to cover multiple angles of people entering and exiting the building. Schnell noted that two cameras are currently not operational, and the camera that faces the parking lot was not enough to clearly identify the shooter.
The club must use ID swipe technology to ensure no underage people are served alcohol and all employees must complete a responsible service class. In addition, the club may no longer use glassware, glass bottles, or serve alcohol by the bottle.
Security personnel are now required to intervene when patrons are using controlled substances. Also, security staff must all submit proof of incorporation, appropriate licenses and permits and proof of insurance, and a clear chain of command must be established, including having one designated leader.
“Right now there are some security staff that work for the licensee and some that work for the promoter, so what ends up happening is that there is not a clear chain of command in terms of who’s responsible for what,” Schnell explained.
In general, there must be a significant security presence with established security protocols and security staff monitoring the parking lot. The club leadership and their security staff must also meet with police to establish a written security protocol, and be willing to submit all surveillance footage to the police department within eight hours of an incident.
Additionally, Schnell specifically wanted to ensure the rear emergency exit has an alarm pushbar system installed, because police believe one of the ways people have been able to smuggle guns into the building is by having friends let them in through the back door.
Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.