JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 100 people were found inside an underground nightclub when the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office raided the off-the-books operation near Goodby’s Creek over the weekend.
The early morning crackdown resulted in two arrests and a cease-and-desist order for those operating what police are calling an illegal nightclub, according to a booking report for one of the arrestees.
In response to several complaints about a club being run out of the strip mall, police approached the business near Baymeadows Road and San Jose Boulevard through an alley about 2 a.m. Saturday.
Once they gained entry, police found 105 people inside the business, according to the report. Police noted the front door was blocked by a couch and the rear door was being used as an entrance.
“The door also opened inward and was not ‘arranged as to readily allow any person inside said building to escape from there in case of fire or other accident,’” the arrest report stated.
Detectives identified Erika Jimenez as the renter of the property. She was arrested on a list of charges and released on bond the same day.
Jimenez, 39, and Alonzo Cruz, 33, were arrested on misdemeanor charges of keeping a place where alcoholic beverages are sold illegally and serving alcohol to minors.
Jimenez, who was already out on bond for a previous felony battery arrest, also faces a charge of failure to comply with an order requiring doors of public buildings to open outward.
The fire marshal issued six civil citations to Jimenez along with a cease-and-desist order.
In Florida, establishments such as bars and restaurants are currently banned from serving alcohol on premises unless they generate a significant percentage of their revenue from the sale of food.
News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson said it was crucial for JSO to shut the club down after finding out about it. For one, he said, it posed a health hazard given the coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only that, it poses a criminal element because when criminals find out about this sort of thing, they know you’re dealing primarily in cash,” Jefferson said. “They’ll come and rob you very easily.”
Notably, someone was shot in the chest in the alley leading to the now-closed bar just last month.