JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The body of a man found inside a Jacksonville strip club Sunday night will undergo an autopsy Monday to determine how he died, police said.
Sgt. Edwin Cayenne, with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said a security guard was getting ready to open Mascaras Gentleman’s Club on Southside Boulevard about 10:10 p.m. when the guard saw smoke coming from a storage area and called 911. Cayenne said that firefighters responded and found the body inside.
It’s not clear why the man was in the building or who he was. Mascaras was closed at the time of the fire, according to Cayenne.
At the scene, investigators could be seen looking at a small propane tank with an attachment that people use when they’re camping to light and heat the fire, but it’s unclear whether it’s related to the fire.
Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the case. The ATF typically assists in fire investigations that involve a business, loss of life and in which the cause is unclear or involves explosives.
Operations at Mascaras were already on thin ice and under close scrutiny after City Council approved a bill in September to formally request an investigation into the Gentlemen’s Club.
“We passed legislation that basically tries to declare it a nuisance, so if it’s a public nuisance that somehow adversely affects the quality of life in the neighborhood, we can try to track those things,” said City Councilman Kevin Carrico.
Carrico and City Councilman Matt Carlucci have put together further legislation to declare Mascaras a public nuisance. Under that declaration, the strip club would be shut down permanently.
The concerns began as complaints about loud noise, parking and the garbage being left behind, but over time those grew into calls for closure.
“They can’t sleep, there’s too much noise, and there are gunshots and gunfire,” Carlucci said.
According to the councilmen, at least six people have been shot at the club in nine years.
Nine years ago, a 29-year-old man was shot and killed inside the club. The following year, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed. Back then, police said that they responded to the club eight times between 2010 and 2013 to investigate gunfire.
More recently, three people were shot outside the club as it was emptying during the final weekend in July. One person died, Tyrell Bartley, 27. Two others were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. In April, the club was temporarily shut down over food and health violations.
In a statement, the general manager of Mascaras told News4Jax that they’ve made changes, including updating lighting and security. Below is the full statement:
“we have worked very diligently to overcome the problems that have came about in the past. After the recent legislation was introduced by Councilmen Matt Carlucci and Kevin Carrico, we have made changes that will help with deterring any possible criminal activity from occuring. Last nights incident was not associated with the actual business operations of Mascaras, but it may have appeared to be due to the ongoing conversation about the legislation and investigation from the City Council. We have experienced numerous issues with the homeless population in the area. The recent fire was a direct result of a homeless person breaking into a storage closet at the far end of the strip plaza to sleep with a portable propane heater. This was an unfortunate accident that caused a loss of life. Our prayers are with the family of the individual.
“Here’s a list of changes we have made at Mascaras Gentlemen Club.
“Added additional Certified Security Officers inside and outside.
“Changed all outside lighting to britgher LED’s bulbs.
“Sent a request to JEA/COJ to repair and replace all broken street lighting.
“Ordered and will install No Loitering signs around the building.
“Installed a fence around the rear of the property to prevent the homeless from vandalizing and sleeping on the property.
“We have plans to meet with the City Councilman, JSO and the City of Jacksonville’ General Council.”
Anyone with information about the fire that can help police is asked to call the JSO non-emergency number at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS (8477). You can also email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.