Stunned by two hours of emotional testimony describing the violence and mayhem in and around the city's only strip club, the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday ordered a formal investigation into the Lamplighter Lounge with the intent of penalizing the business.
Council President Amy Brendmoen said the city attorney's office will conduct the investigation and penalties could range from fines to a full revocation of the club's liquor and entertainment licenses.
"This is clearly a business that should be facing adverse actions," said Brendmoen, who represents the portion of the North End where the club is located. "We owe it to our community to ensure that every angle is investigated, that we look into all these potential violations and impacts on our community."
Police have visited the club 729 times since 2018 for a host of disturbances including assaults, brawls and gunfire. Makeup artist Nia Black was shot and killed in the parking lot last summer.
The Lamplighter is in a busy strip mall at the corner of Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue, near apartments and homes. St. Paul, Maplewood and Roseville converge at that intersection and have formed an alliance in recent years to revitalize the area.
The club, where women dance nude behind glass, will remain open pending the investigation, with the council granting it a temporary license renewal.
At a Wednesday afternoon meeting that followed a morning public hearing, council members expressed their frustration at not being able to immediately deny the club's application to renew its liquor and entertainment licenses.
"I am still reeling from this morning's hearing," said Council Member Rebecca Noecker. "Frankly, I don't understand how conditions were not imposed on this property before. … Someone has been shot, assaulted or killed every single one of the last three years."
The city attorney cautioned that both state statute and city code afford club operator LL Entertainment Services due process, including an investigation and an opportunity to contest allegations.
No one for LL Entertainment spoke publicly at Wednesday's public hearing and council meeting. LL Entertainment also did not respond to a Star Tribune request for comment.
The North End Neighborhood Organization first pushed for the inquiry into the Lamplighter. Neighborhood leaders asked the city to require stricter security measures as a condition of the strip club's operating licenses, citing excessive use of police resources and violence that hurt the neighborhood.
At the public hearing, nearly 30 people including elected officials spoke about the club's negative impact on the community. Many asked for it to be shut down altogether.
Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams called the violence and crime in and around the club a "disgrace" and urged St. Paul leaders to use all legal tools at their disposal to hold Lamplighter ownership accountable.
"There is a ton of investment and innovation in that area save for one business who doesn't seem to be particularly concerned about its impact on the community," said St. Paul school Board Member Chauntyll Allen.
Family and friends of Nia Black called in from across the country, describing the talented young college student and entrepreneur whose life was cut short in the parking lot of the Lamplighter.
"We completely stand with the community and advocate for this place to be shut down," said Nia's mother, LaTanya Black. "We went to a graveyard to celebrate my daughter's birthday. The Lamplighter is bringing darkness into that community."
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037