Memphis Mayor A C Wharton has called for the condemnation and demolition of the now closed Club Crave nightclub in the Beale Street Entertainment District.
But, can Mayor Wharton legally stay true to his vow or is it just a threat that will be hard to follow through on?
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The expressions of moral outrage from public officials were undeniable and vociferous Dec 27.
"We're going to make sure that the community gets what they deserve in terms of a safe place and a location where we don't have to worry," said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.
"We've done all that we can do and there's nothing else for us to do, but to close this location," said Police Director Toney Armstrong.
"We will very shortly file a condemnation petition which basically means we tear down this place. So, that we don't have to worry about injunctions," Mayor Wharton said.
If it had been a western perhaps Mayor Wharton and company might have hitched up ropes to horses, to pull down the walls and the front door and then torch what was left of notorious Club Crave in true vigilante fashion. However, in 21st Century fashion a few nails, boards and chains signified its deserved closing as a bona fide public nuisance.
"In a year's time from De. 1, 2011, to Dec. 24, 2012, officers have made a total of 175 arrests on or around the property at 380 Beale," Director Armstrong said.
But, though the infamous nightspot's current owners are scheduled to appear before Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter on Jan. 3. Does Wharton's public decree to demolish the building devoid of the legal legs to get it done?
Shelby County Commissioner and attorney Walter Bailey is not sure seeking a condemnation petition is a viable solution to keeping the club closed.
"That's abatement, public nuisance. That's the way prosecutors always proceed," Bailey said. "I've never known prosecutors to proceed under condemnation."
Memphis city attorney Herman Morris said the petition could be filed in court by mid to late January. That would be just about the time when another court proceeding is expected to award the city responsibility for the management of Beale Street. Another good reason to obliterate any vestiges of a building Wharton labels as "snake-bitten."
"We will actually have, the city will have, possession of it," Mayor Wharton said. "Then the only fight will be over how much we pay the owners for it. We will have some say so in that."
But, pay who and how much? Shelby County Assessors Office lists Beale Street Development Corporation as the property owner of 380 Beale. However, they've had a long-running litigation battle with Memphis businessman George Miller over ownership.
The property where the club sits is assessed at $269,000. As Mayor Wharton said, expect a fight over any buyout dollar figures, no matter who the real owners are. But, Bailey thinks the door is still open for the property's owners to make a fresh start, outside of the nightclub trade.
"If the person wants to make it come within the confines of the law legally, such as a church, or respectable retail outlet, it seems to me that would be quite appropriate," Bailey said.
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