Minneapolis officials recommended Friday that a downtown night club with a history of fights among patrons and frequent police calls be closed for 90 days as they pursue a variety of actions against it, including possibly denying its liquor license renewal.
Police have been called 165 times to Karma, 315 1st Av. N., since January 2010, according to the city.
Crimes committed in and around the club include robberies and felony and misdemeanor assaults, including assaults on police officers, according to city officials. Other calls to the club involved fights, suspicious people and other disturbances in the area around the Warehouse District club.
Officials with the police department, the city attorney's office and the city's regulatory services department met with Karma representatives Friday and recommended that the club close for 90 days as part of a nuisance-abatement plan.
Karma representatives have until Tuesday to respond to the city's plan. The process of reviewing Karma's application to renew its liquor license continues. A recommendation to the city is expected soon. Each process will require hearings.
Minneapolis city spokesman Matt Laible said it's not unusual for conditions to be attached to an establishment's liquor license. A recommendation that a business temporarily shut down is not as common.
"This would be a step beyond that," he said. "The 90-day closure is intended to provide time for the business to rework its management of safety and security issues."
Karma's owner, John Barlow, said his partner met with city officials Friday. Barlow said he had not yet heard of the recommendation but plans to fight "all the way" any attempt to close the business or deny it a license. He said a 90-day closure would likely drive the club out of business.
"Here's what I can say to that: Good luck," Barlow said.
He said city officials at one time asked if he would change the club's theme and music from hip-hop to country.
"I really don't know why; I couldn't tell you," he said. "Apparently they have an issue with hip-hop music downtown."
Asked if he's saying he believes the race of his patrons is a factor, Barlow said: "Read between the lines."
The city served Karma with a Notice of Public Nuisance May 5, citing three violent incidents inside the club since February. The notice required Karma to correct the problems within 30 days.
Attention was drawn back to the club after a night of heavy gunfire Sunday that included three shootings in the Warehouse District.
Cortez A. Johnson, 21, of St. Paul, was shot in the head about 2:15 a.m. at N. 3rd Street and 1st Avenue N., apparently after an argument. Family members say Johnson, who was placed in a medically induced coma and was in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, was at Karma before he was shot.
Karma is one of the downtown clubs that admits anyone 18 or older on Sundays, a night that has become troublesome for police in the area.
Also shot at the same time and place was Lashun T. Witherspoon Jr., 19, of Elk River, police said. He was hit in the upper body and was treated for what were described as non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities have yet to identify a third man, a 23-year-old, who was shot in the head about 10 minutes later at N. 5th Street and 1st Avenue N., again after an argument. He was in stable condition, according to a police report Tuesday.
Minneapolis police currently staff 12 patrol officers and four to five mounted officers outside Karma at closing time. The club is open from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. four nights a week. Police say they will continue to monitor Karma, while they ask nearby businesses to closely watch for and report fights or disputes.
As they have after most instances of downtown violence, police stressed that, despite the numerous calls for service in and around Karma, downtown Minneapolis remains safe overall. Violent crime in the city's First Precinct, including downtown, is down 12 percent this year compared to the same period in 2010.
Staff writer Matt McKinney contributed to this report. Abby Simons • 612-673-4921