In the end, Aqua Nightclub and Lounge left downtown Minneapolis quietly.
Brewer did not inform the city that the club was leaving, and made no attempt to collect $2,200 the city owes the club in a licensing refund, said Linda Roberts, interim manager of business licensing for Minneapolis.
The only message signaling the club’s closure came from its Facebook page in a promotion for the final hurrah: “It is with great sadness we are announcing that this will be our last weekend in operation,” read the Oct. 23 post. “Over the years we have appreciated your business, and thank you for your loyalty. Come out and help us celebrate one last time.”
Brewer’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Aqua’s departure from downtown marks the end of what business leaders and city officials described as a frustrating saga with a club unable or unwilling to abide city code and control its raucous customers. As city leaders take new steps to make downtown more inviting, the shooting revived longstanding public safety concerns for Minneapolis’ late-night club scene.
Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said the business community welcomes nightclubs like Aqua, but the owners must be accountable for the crowds they attract. “When that doesn’t happen, that spills over and affects other people and other organizations,” he said.
Before the early-morning Oct. 15 shooting, the city cited Aqua at least six times in 2018 for license violations, according to city records. Among those were two citations just 24 hours before a man smuggled a gun past security and shot three people.
Investigators are still searching for suspects in the shooting, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.
After the shooting, city licensing officials told Brewer they planned to begin the process to shut down the club if Brewer didn’t do so voluntarily. At the time, her lawyer, Andrew Bardwell, said his client agreed to close for a week to reevaluate security protocols, but had not decided to surrender the business just yet.
“To shutter Aqua and oust its employees would only increase the damage resulting from the incident,” Bardwell said in a statement. “Before meeting with the City, [the owner] decided it would voluntarily remain closed through Oct. 24, 2018, but it has not made any decision regarding operation after that date.”
Aqua reopened Oct. 26-28 for three final nights of DJ sets before closing for good.
Roberts, of the city’s business licensing division, said the club’s going-away party was “not something we were excited about.”
“We were concerned about the public aspect of it coming right after a shooting,” she said.
In order to stave off similar impasses in the future, city regulators and legal staff are now developing language for an “emergency closure” procedure that would stop businesses from operating while the city takes steps to shut them down, said Roberts.
“It’s just lessons learned,” she said.