Ted Hansom, the attorney for the owners of Club 152, said Monday the Beale Street business did its own policing against drug use and crime.
Hansom made his comments after an Shelby county Environmental Court hearing to discuss reopening of the club was put off until Tuesday afternoon.
For years Beale Street's notorious Club 152 has been a financial goldmine but, that cash cow remains a victim of a game of legal cow-tipping by the Shelby County District Attorney's Office. Its court-ordered closure May 16 has created a ripple effect felt from ownership to employees.
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Amid the clamor of a blockbuster weekend on Beale Street it was impossible to hear the sounds of silence emanating from the court-ordered closed nightspot Club 152.
As of Monday, one of the nation's recognized top clubs in the country remained in the dark following the May 16 last drug raid led by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. Yet, even as a scheduled environmental court hearing on the club's status was delayed until Tuesday, Hansom was taking issue with the timing and allegations of open drug use leveled at the wildly popular establishment.
It was a costly interruption of business done during the busiest time of the year for the entire entertainment district.
"I draw the analogy of what they did was like closing Macy's two weeks before Christmas," Hansom said. "Memphis In May is a big time for people who work, wait tables, serve drinks. It punished a lot of people. Innocent people."
But, innocence has never been the main attraction of a club whose colorful reputation has not deterred it from racking up millions for a various array of owners. In 2001 real estate developer Rusty Hyneman obtained the lease rights for 152 and its next door neighbor Blues city Cafe.
By the time Hyneman was bought out several years ago, the core group of Club 152 Operating LLC was composed of Beale Street impresario Bud Chittom, his longtime friend Wilbur Hensley, businessman Charlie Ryan and convention and visitors' bureau president Kevin Kane.
In 2006 alone the club and cafe properties reported sales of nearly $8 million. In a grandfathered in lease agreement dating back 30 years ago, Club 152 pays a straight price of $5,000 a year without having to pay the monthly percentage other businesses on the street do.
So, with the rest of Memphis In May left and the start of a Grizzlies playoff series starting Saturday, the stakes are high for club ownership in getting the club quickly reopened.
Hansom says the D.A.'s office appears to be completely ignoring the club's past record of alerting law enforcement to drug problems on Beale. He alleges efforts to make former Attorney General Bill Gibbons aware were never responded to.
"They've tried to be proactive," Hansom said. "They hired private security to come in undercover and try and identify people. They fired people they even suspected were involved in distributing or using drugs."
Hansom says his clients have continued their due diligence with active video surveillance inside the club which will be checked against the D.A.'s allegations of open marijuana use by employees and patrons. But, while Tuesday's hearing doesn't figure to be a roll over and play dead session, the bottom line strikes a familiar chord sounded by those trying to escape the financial collar of being declared a public nuisance.
"If they identify for us people working for 152 who were involved in criminal activity while they were at work? They won't be working there anymore," Hansom said.
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