V.I. government strips Metropolis Lounge of license Metropolis is not only nightclub plagued by trouble with crime, violence A timeline of events leading up to the closure of Metropolis Lounge
Published: August 30, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - In what the V.I. government is calling an unprecedented move, a St. Thomas nightclub was closed after the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs revoked its business license at the request of the V.I. Police commissioner.
A string of criminal and violent incidents - including a murder - in the area around the Metropolis Lounge in Sub Base led to the abrupt closure of the late-night club last week.
The Metropolis Lounge was in business for less than a year before the DLCA sought the revocation of the owner's "nightclub" license. Hugo Rios has owned the business for about two-and-a-half years, though he only got a license to operate it as a nightclub Sept. 5, 2012. He officially lost the license Aug. 23.
The Daily News was unable to reach Rios or club manager Krystal Edmead on Thursday.
"It's in the public's best interest," DLCA Commissioner Wayne Biggs Jr. said of the license revocation.
The department went after the Metropolis Lounge after the V.I. Police Department made a formal complaint to the DLCA in June about how frequently the police had to respond to incidents at the venue, which stayed open until 4 a.m., Biggs said.
The most notable incident was the Dec. 8, 2012, shooting in which a bystander, 22-year-old Keith Dawson Jr., died after getting caught in the crossfire of a gunfight about 4 a.m. in a parking lot next door to the Metropolis Lounge.
"This is people's lives," Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. said regarding his decision to request the license revocation by DLCA.
In response to the Police Department's request, DLCA notified Rios, who lives in California, of a hearing to decide whether he would lose his license for the business.
DLCA conducted the hearing Aug. 2, about three weeks before the department came to a decision.
DLCA justified its decision based on the V.I. Code's Title 27, section 304(a)(2)-(3), which outlines the reasons for which the commissioner can refuse or revoke a business license.
Biggs pointed out the clause stating that the commissioner is allowed to do so if it is "accordingly necessary to protect the public welfare, health, morals or safety."
The decision sets a precedent, as it is the first nightclub forced to close because of crime at or around it. Many of the territory's nightclubs have experienced similar issues with crime, but those that have closed in recent years have done so by choice.
However, that may change, as Querrard insisted that this is only the first business that it will be addressing, and perhaps pursuing a revocation of license for.
"This is just the start," Querrard said. "There are other businesses that we are constantly responding to. All of this takes manpower."
A number of other businesses are on the Police Department's radar, and Querrard said the department plans to deal with them one-by-one.
Querrard would not name the businesses he had in mind, but he said that they likely know who they were.
How the DLCA will determine what level of concern requires the revocation of a business license remains unclear.
No laws currently are in place that require a business to prevent crime from taking place at or around a business, according to Frederick Norford, the DLCA's general counsel.
However, the V.I. Code does allow the department to determine whether a business is safe, Norford said.
While Norford acknowledged that other businesses aside from nightclubs also have issues with crime on their property, he said that businesses such as the Metropolis Lounge condone the activity that leads up to the incidents.
"We have to do what we have to do," Norford said.
It is unclear whether Rios will appeal the revocation of his license, though he does have that right. Though Rios is thought to be in California currently, it did appear that someone had been inside the Metropolis Lounge recently.
The nightclub was locked Thursday, but through the bars on the window, piles of papers could be seen stacked on the swanky, colorful furniture inside.
On the door, a poster advertised a concert that the nightclub had scheduled for September.
"This will send a message to business owners that they will have to put measures into place to keep the environment safe for the public," Norford said.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com. Trouble at the nightclubs is nothing new in the Virgin Islands.
- In April, a 21-year-old man was shot in the arm near Starz nightclub in Havensight on St. Thomas.
- In August 2012, Ecliff James was gunned down inside Club 54 nightclub in Christiansted while working as a security guard at the nightclub.
- In June 2012, Kashawn Stephens, 18, was stabbed to death inside the Hush nightclub near Market Square on St. Thomas.
- In May 2012, two tourists were injured after they left Starz nightclub and were followed in a car by a group of men who opened fire on their vehicles. Neither injury was fatal.
- In November 2010, Aquil Abdullah, 31, was fatally shot outside Jaguars nightclub, which was in Havensight but has since closed.
- In August 2009, Jesse Smalls was gunned down by a group of men outside Club Lexus in Smith Bay on St. Thomas.
- In March 2009, Phillip John George, 28, was fatally shot outside Club Lexus in Smith Bay, which also closed on its own.
While the closure of Metropolis Lounge nightclub is unprecedented, V.I. government spokesman Jean Greaux said Thursday that the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs had been working on a case against Jaguars before it closed.
March 4, 2012 at 4:30 a.m. - V.I. Police Officer Joycelyn Bradshaw recovers an unlicensed firearm from a man involved in a disturbance inside the Metropolis Lounge.
June 10, 2012 at 2:30 a.m. - A man chokes his ex-girlfriend during an argument inside the nightclub.
Dec. 8, 2012 at 3:50 a.m. - Keith Dawson Jr., 22, is shot in the throat in a parking lot next door to the nightclub and subsequently dies.
Dec. 25, 2012 at 4:05 a.m. - V.I. police oversee the timely closure of the nightclub, which is required by V.I. code to be closed by 4 a.m.
Jan. 6 at 3:30 a.m. - V.I. police evacuate the nightclub because of a bomb threat.
March 15 - Acting Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. asks the DLCA Commissioner Wayne Biggs Jr. to take steps to stop the Metropolis Lounge nightclub from further facilitating criminal behavior in, or around, the establishment.
June 20 - Complaint filed by V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs against Metropolis Lounge owner Hugo Rios.
June 28 - Notice issued to Rios that a hearing will take place to determine whether he can keep his nightclub license for Metropolis Lounge.
Aug. 2 - Hearing to determine whether Rios can keep his nightclub license.
Aug. 23 - DLCA revokes the business license for Metropolis Lounge.