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Dangers of drinking shouldn't include getting shot

Nothing much very good happens after 2 a.m.

Leslie Jerome Jones Jr. would probably agree, if he were still alive to ponder the point.

It's possible that so too would Ahmaud Black, but he's not saying much these days, especially to the cops who want to know if he has any idea who might have shot him in the chest last weekend as he was taking in the charming nightlife of Ybor City's Club Empire.

The Club Empire has a history of violent confrontations and criminal mischief. The Algonquin Round Table this joint is not.

Someone shot Jones, 20, as he was sitting in Club Empire's VIP room. When the VIP room turns into a shooting gallery, perhaps the management of Club Empire might want to reconsider the menu of perks available to its so very special patrons.

Since Jones is dead, and Black, 19, has suddenly developed a case of shyness, it's not entirely clear what precipitated the deadly events in the wee hours of last Sunday morning. But it's probably safe to say the two men perhaps had annoyed someone.

And apparently Club Empire attracts more than its fair share of humorless habitues severely lacking a sense of bonhomme one would associate with the fellowship of having an adult beverage with friends.

Over the past nine years, various shootings and stabbings — three of them fatal — have occurred at or near Ybor City's answer to Deadwood, while Tampa police officers have responded to nearly 50 calls for service this year alone.

Sort of puts a whole new meaning into having a few pops, doesn't it?

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but for the life of me I simply cannot fathom why people would want to hang out in a nightclub where there is a fair chance your evening could end up in the emergency room. Do you still have to leave a tip?

Toxicology reports to determine whether the underage Jones had been drinking at the time of his killing won't be available for a few weeks. Still, Club Empire's checkered history does raise a legitimate question as to why Tampa and St. Petersburg extend their alcohol consumption hours to 3 a.m.

St. Petersburg only last year bumped the booze hour to 3 a.m. at the urging of bar owners who fretted they were losing business to the Tampa watering holes, as if to suggest liquored up, panicked patrons would glance at their watches, realize it was getting close to 2 a.m. and bolt to Tampa to slam down a few more aperitifs while they still had time.

I like my cocktails as much as the next guy. But if you can't get besotted by 2 a.m., it's pretty obvious you're not putting your heart into the task at hand.

This is a completely unscientific theory, but I'll advance it anyway. The longer you enable people to drink, the longer they will drink. And by the time 3 a.m. rolls around, either you will have fallen in love with the woman who four hours earlier you would have worn a hazmat suit at the mere sight of — OR — you have suddenly discovered unbridled courage and/or stupidity and thus a need to start shooting people simply because . . . well, just because.

Could Jones and Black just as easily have been shot much earlier in the evening? Maybe. But their chances markedly improved with each tick on the clock and each clink of an ice cube.

There ought to be a law. Any gin joint that is the scene of more than two fatal assaults and 30-plus police calls should at least have its liquor license suspended until it cleans up its act.

Could we raise a glass to that?

Dangers of drinking shouldn't include getting shot 10/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 6:04pm]
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