City looks into club that was site of shooting

Unclear who allowed nightclub in neighborhood to operate

Author: Elizabeth Cate, General assignment reporter, ecate@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 02 2012 03:54:17 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 11 2012 04:46:03 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Jacksonville police are still searching for the people involved in a New Year's Day shooting at the Chicago Club in Grand Park, but as the police look for clues, Channel 4 investigators are still asking questions about the place where the nightclub's co-owner was killed and whether it could have been prevented.

The question is, who slipped up and allowed a nightclub that's in the middle of a neighborhood to operate?

Since Channel 4 began asking that question, Councilman Warren Jones has stepped up and started a fact finding mission internally.

On Tuesday, city staff indicated that at this point, they don't know the answer.

The cinderblock nightclub sticks out like a sore thumb in the Northwest Jacksonville neighborhood. It's clearly not desirable to have next door, residents say.

But no one from the city stopped to notice the club until 45-year-old James Darren Graham, known to the community as Chucky, was killed.

"We don't know why it happened. Another senseless murder," said Danielle Stafford, Graham's sister. "We don't know why it happened. We don't have the answer to that."

There are many unanswered questions hanging in the air. The nightclub is zoned for residential use. Its liquor license is expired and its last business listing is as a barbershop.

Jones, the district representative, held an administrative meeting Tuesday to find out how the club was allowed to operate where it is.

"I don't think anybody dropped the ball. It's just difficult to enforce that unless somebody can notify the (Jacksonville) Sheriff's Office or (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), let them know that they are selling liquor," Jones said.

It seems nearly every neighbor thought Chucky was somehow in charge. But his name is nowhere to be found on any papers for the property.

The city says neighbors never formally complained, but JSO did receive five service calls to the address in the past year.

During Jones' meeting, city zoning could not confirm if the nightclub is properly permitted or not, although it has received code violations.

"I'm sure there are others, and all we can do is encourage people to call and let the system determine if they are operating legally or not," Jones said.

It's apparent somebody cares about the club. After the city slapped the property with a citation, someone came by to pick up the trash, put up the proper display of address and cut back the weeds.

But just because it's cleaned up, Jones wants concerned neighbors to know it doesn't mean the club is in the clear.

"A lot of times they just ignore it and try to make the best of a bad situation, and what we're trying to do is improve the neighborhood by removing those kind of activities from residential communities," Jones said.

For now, the nightclub is closed, but the neighborhood is left looking for closure, still wondering who killed Graham and how it possibly could have been prevented.

Jones is planning on holding a community meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 26 to talk to neighbors about their concerns.

The city urges anyone with any complaints about a business in their neighborhood to call 904-630-CITY.