Deputies seek to shut down "dangerous" business

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July 31, 2006

It's on a busy street, not far from a high school...but the business may be too dangerous for the community, and now it may be on the verge of shutting down.

Richmond County sheriff's deputies are trying to crack down on crime where it starts, and this business has been the backdrop for a string of shootings in the past year.

Now deputies are looking to commissioners to help them keep it from happening again.

Gunther's Lounge...Milledgeville Spirits...MLK Lounge.

Different names for one location that's seen plenty of problems.

Richmond County deputies tell us if the business owner doesn't take some responsibility, they're ready to take matters into their own hands.

It was in the parking lot of this bar and package shop where two men were shot and killed last November, and three more were shot at in June.

"Our concern is with the continued operation of this location," says Sgt. Richard Elim. "We've proved it has more problems there of the serious nature."

At the last commission meeting, Sgt. Richard Elim put the crime in focus when commissioners were asked to approve a new liquor license for the MLK Lounge and Milledgeville Spirits.

Before commissioners even had a chance to take a closer look, the new applicant withdrew the request.

Now the Richmond County Sheriff's Office wants the current owner to shut the whole thing down.

"We put more resources in the area. That's all we can do. It's the owner's responsibility to make it a safe location," Sgt. Elim says.

But the owner, who did not want to speak to us on camera, told us he's tried...and his business has taken a major hit because of it, going from sales of more than $2,000 a night to less than $200 in the last four months.

The owner tells us that after the most recent triple shooting in June, he's shut the lounge doors for four weeks to deter some of the crime. But Richmond County sheriffs say they haven't seen a change.

"He's been made aware of the problems, and it's it continuing to be a problem," Sgt. Elim says.

But those who know the history tell us one man can't do it all.

"Trouble happens everywhere," says customer Deadra Thompson. "He not in control of what happens. People do what they want, not just here."

"It's the young crowd bringing this drama to Gunther's; it's not the club itself," says lounge manager Maurice Jones.

The Sheriff's Office is looking to have the current owner's license revoked at the next public service committee on Monday.

The owner of Milledgeville Spirits and the MLK Lounge says he won't fight it if commissioners want him to shut it down.