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Downtown St. Petersburg nightclub Scene faces lawsuits stemming from February shooting

The city’s chief assistant attorney, Mark Winn, says he’s working on crafting an ordinance to require bars to pay to offset an increase in police overtime costs associated with patrolling downtown, especially since bars are now open until 3 a.m.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

The city’s chief assistant attorney, Mark Winn, says he’s working on crafting an ordinance to require bars to pay to offset an increase in police overtime costs associated with patrolling downtown, especially since bars are now open until 3 a.m.

ST. PETERSBURG — The owners of Scene Premium Night Club vowed to step up security after a chaotic shooting earlier this year.

Management hired off-duty police officers to help patrol crowds and promised to repair their reputation with the community.

No major incidents have been reported at the club in recent months, but that hasn't stopped the lawsuits.

At least three people have filed civil negligence claims in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court against the club at 211 Third St. S.

Two women say they were injured during the Feb. 8 shooting as thousands of patrons fled into the street. A third person is seeking damages because he was shot.

A club owner hung up on a reporter who asked about the claims.

The lawsuits against Scene come amid a push in the city to require bars to pay for security to offset an increase in police overtime costs associated with patrolling downtown, especially since bars are now open an hour later, until 3 a.m.

In May, many of the stakeholders — including bar owners, police and city officials — met to talk about the issue. They made a plan to revisit the issue in July, with hopes of bringing something before the City Council.

But that hasn't happened yet.

City officials say they are still crafting the ordinance.

"I've been working on it diligently, but haven't quite finished it," said Mark Winn, the city's chief assistant attorney. "I hope to bring it back in the near future, but don't have a time line."

Winn said preparations for the Republican National Convention sidetracked many issues, including the bar security ordinance.

"That's a significant reason I haven't been able to get to it," he said. "The key I think is that we all realize that it needs to be safe downtown."

Scene was the opposite of safe last February, the lawsuits allege.

Deonte Archer, 24, was one of two people hit by the bullets that night. He was treated at Bayfront Medical Center for a leg wound.

Archer claims the club was negligent. He filed his suit late last month.

"It could've hit a major artery in his thigh," said Bob Heyman, Archer's attorney.

Heyman noted that the shooting came on "Top Shelf Tuesday" night, when people paid a flat amount for unlimited drinks.

"Just by that type of promotion, you are going to attract people that tend to become intoxicated and tend to cause problems," he said. "They had an absolute responsibility to provide more security. It's a common sense issue."

Two women, Chasma Lagrant and Satis Bailey, claim they were injured as patrons fled in a panic after hearing gunshots. The women are being represented by Darryl Rouson, who said he believes the club put "profits over safety."

Police have not made any arrests in the case, which is still open.

Heyman said he hopes his client gets justice. But he also hopes the city does something soon.

"It should have been addressed early and very specifically," he said. "When things quiet down, there's not the momentum to get stuff done. . . . Heaven help us if something else happens again."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

Downtown St. Petersburg nightclub Scene faces lawsuits stemming from February shooting 09/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:06pm]
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