Club plans to reopen months after killing

Man killed, 2 others shot on New Year's Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Shut down after a fatal shooting on New Year's Day, the owner of a nightclub in Northwest Jacksonville is planning to reopen, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.

Vincent Brown, who operates the club, talked this week about how he's going to make that happen.

"The fire marshal came out, said we needed to widen the bathrooms for handicap reasons," Brown said.

As he works on repairs, Hazel Harley said she's scared of what's to come. She lives just down the street and remembers the night police said two clubgoers shot and killed 45-year-old James Graham and wounded two others.

"I won't even come out. I won't even come out," Harley said on if the club reopens.

Since the killing, Channel 4 began to question how the concrete block building that's surrounded by homes is able to operate as a business called Club Chicago Inn.

Channel 4's Elizabeth Cate found out there are conflicting rules within the zoning code. Cate asked city councilman Warren Jones if he thinks the law is clear.

"It's clear when you talk to legal, it is clear, but the distinction is the value," Jones said.

As the law is written now, the property is grandfathered in to zoning rules. Built in the 1960s, it operated as a neighborhood store where homeowners could walk to pick up groceries.

Fast forward to 2012, it's now a members-only nightclub, a far cry from its original intent.

Some neighbors are hopeful that history can be erased to close up the club.

"We zoned that property and many others as residential. They're grandfathered in," Jones said. "As I told the residents, we can't zone a company out of business, but if they're closed for a year or longer, they can't reopen."

According to the club's electric bills, the property did shut down for six months in 2008, which according to code should have been enough to shut it down for good.

Except that in a separate section of the law, the city says since the property is worth more than $4,000, it can stay.

Very few properties are worth less than that, which means the six-month rule, intended to create safer neighborhoods, serves no purpose, some say.

"What happened on Chicago Club on New Year's Day, it could happen at other places," Jones said. "And it's not good planning, it's no conducive to a safe clean neighborhood, it's not compatible with residential use, the noise, the trash the traffic that it generates."

Jones has now decided to file a bill to change the code, a move neighbors are hopeful helps clean up the city.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.