TAMPA — A week after one of Ybor City's most notorious nightclubs shut down, gunfire erupted Tuesday at another nearby club, leaving five people wounded and civic leaders worrying about an image problem.
Police say a club patron opened fire in the parking lot of Club Manilla about 2:45 a.m., as hundreds of customers filed out for closing time. People dived behind cars and ran for cover.
The shooter, who was not named, remained at large.
Club Manilla, at 2620 E Seventh Ave., is seven blocks east of the Empire Night Club, which closed last week because of dismal attendance after Leslie Jones Jr. was fatally shot Oct. 2.
Police called Empire a problem club, and when it comes to Club Manilla, Ybor leader Tony LaColla said, "On the worst-offenders list, it's probably No. 2."
Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick says he'll ask attorneys to look into the city's options.
"It just seems like there's a lot of irresponsible owners of these clubs," he said. "We can't tolerate these large crowds and these shootings."
He's worried the reports of gunfire will scare off tourists. LaColla said it could set back Ybor's marketing efforts by years. "We've had to battle against some bad press here or there," said LaColla, president of the Historic Ybor Neighborhood Civic Association. "But it's been relatively good. Then all of a sudden in the past few weeks, you get two major incidents."
He wants Club Manilla closed.
Over the past several years, officers have handled up to 50 calls each month at the club. So far this year, they've filed 18 reports on drug violations, four on batteries and two on car thefts.
Though the club has a high volume of calls, Tuesday's shooting was its first, police say.
Club Manilla hires two extra duty officers on Mondays — its big night, according to police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. The department also sends a dozen additional officers at closing time, when fights often erupt.
Police want to talk to the club's owners about their security plans.
Fred Schwartz, the club's landlord, said Tuesday that managers did everything right. He blamed police for not being more vigilant outside the club. He believes the gunman retrieved the weapon from a car because guns are not allowed inside the club. Bouncers use metal-detecting wands at the door, he said.
But police say it appears the shooter had the weapon inside the club. They say a shoving fight that started indoors spilled into the parking lot as patrons exited and, not far from the door, the gunman opened fire.
Jamarl Pringle, 22, was taken to the hospital in serious condition and was stable Tuesday afternoon. The others suffered nonlife-threatening injuries. They are Reginald McCray, 30, William Lillie, 25, Norvis Heflin, 29, and Ernest Everett III, 19.
LaColla said Civic Association leaders plan to meet soon to devise an action plan for dealing with Club Manilla and the bad publicity.
"We want people to picture a neat place to come and visit — a place where they can feel comfortable and enjoy the architecture, the music, the history and the food," he said. "Ybor City is one of the few places in Tampa Bay where you have this energy. It's a place where you can go see and be seen."
Times news researcher Natalie Watson and staff writer Marissa Lang contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.