And frankly, if new business guidelines are not negotiated that can better assure public safety, then that’s exactly what Bradley County Circuit Court Judge Larry Puckett should do during a Petition to Abate Nuisance hearing requested by DA Steve Bebb.
The hearing is scheduled for Judge Puckett’s court Monday at 9 a.m.
Located on King Edward Avenue at 20th Street, Luv 2 Dance Studio is a civic oddity.
On the legitimate side, the business provides a convenient location for family-friendly events like weddings, birthday parties, dinners, ballroom dancing, Zumba, martial arts and similar activities. It even hosts a church service on Sundays. It is our understanding the majority of these occasions involve Cleveland and Bradley County residents, and their families.
On the illegitimate side — and mostly on Saturday nights — the Luv 2 Dance Studio lessee sublets the facility to large groups of party-goers, and most recently the gatherings have involved crowds from the Chattanooga area. Over the past several months, these events have become the dark side of the business.
Violence — apparently perpetrated by outsiders reportedly from Chattanooga — has disrupted the otherwise quiet surroundings of this South Cleveland area.
The most recent came a week ago during a Saturday night party that is alleged to have involved as many as 300 people. Apparently, most came to Cleveland from outside our community, many from Chattanooga. At about 2 a.m. Sunday, at least 10 gunshots rang out into the night from outside the studio. Bullets are reported to have struck two vehicles and a family residence. Two people received minor injuries and in a nearby apartment a small child was almost struck.
Last week’s shootings are the latest in a string of incidents linked to the business address. A few others include:
n March 11, 2012: Fight in progress and reports of gunfire.
n Aug. 5, 2012: Fight in progress.
n Oct. 14, 2012: Fight in progress.
n Nov. 17, 2012: Area resident complained that a large number of cars parked for an event at the studio were blocking his driveway.
n March 24, 2013: Fight in progress, and 16 law enforcement officers responded.
n April 13, 2013: In an attempt to stop continued violence at the studio, the Cleveland Police Department placed 20 officers in the vicinity after being alerted the facility had been rented for another large gathering; this police presence thwarted any potential violence ... but at what expense to the law enforcement agencies?
n May 11, 2013: Fight in progress; six officers responded.
n July 7, 2013: Gunshots fired with the window shot out of at least one vehicle.
Last week’s near tragic incident was a wakeup call.
DA Bebb and Assistant DA Stephen Hatchett, whose patience is surely being tried, believe it as well. At last report, they were to present the Petition to Abate Nuisance request to Judge Puckett on Monday. If granted, the petition could shut down the Luv 2 Dance Studio.
It is our understanding the studio’s operator — Freddy Mora, who leases it from property owner Ora Teague, and who sublets it for community functions — is negotiating with the DA’s office to implement new, much more stringent guidelines. Some are expected to include new hours of operation, earlier closings, a permanent ban on existing “bring your own booze” allowances and strict limitations on who gets to rent it and who’s out.
If the latter is to become a new business policy, our suggestion for the first to go are outside groups. Officers of the Cleveland Police Department and Bradley County Sheriff’s Office have enough to do keeping our hometown residents safe. They don’t need the added distraction — nor do our families and children — of outside forces who are bringing with them their own measure of violence, whether it’s coming from Chattanooga or any community.
By societal standards, Cleveland is not a high-crime city. But, like any town, we have our share of violence — shootings, fights, robberies, burglaries ... and sadly, even homicides. So we don’t need the crime of other communities spilling into our own.
It is not our intent to condemn Luv 2 Dance Studio nor its operators; at least, not yet. The facility apparently serves a relevant community role on its good days and nights. But it has a seedy side, one being imported from Chattanooga and perhaps beyond.
We suggest this. Keep Luv 2 Dance Studio open for a probationary period long enough to allow for a chance at redemption. Change the business rules. Enforce them. And no more leasing to outside groups.
It could mean sacrificing a few dollars, but it will restore peace of mind and community goodwill.
And if further violence raises its ugly head? Shut it down tighter than a rock’n roll drum.