Is nightclub in neighborhood legal?

4 people shot early Sunday outside Northwest Jacksonville club

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The killing of a nightclub co-owner in Grand Park in Northwest Jacksonville is raising questions about the nightclub in the middle of a neighborhood.

Four people were shot Sunday outside Chicago Club. James Darren Graham, 45, who co-owned the club, died at a hospital.

Channel 4's Elizabeth Cate has since looked into whether the club should even be there and if it's legally operating.

Within rows of houses in Grand Park, there's an out-of-place cinder block building with iron rod bars, shattered glass and a bad paint job. The members-only club looks closed. There's no sign, address or business.

But neighbors in the area know some nights it's open. It was in the early morning hours of New Year's, when the quadruple shooting happened.

"They always just rowdy, just rowdy, just rowdy," resident Winfred Noisette said.

Concerned about her family's safety, Noisette wants the place shut down. She said she's not surprised to hear about a shooting because she's had to dodge bullets before, as can be seen by the hole in her car.

"It's going to get worse. It's not going to get better as long as it's a club, and I don't want nobody else to get hurt or hear about nobody else getting hurt," Noisette said.

Since Cate notified the city earlier this week about possible violations at the property, just two days later, the city slapped a citation on the wall citing improper display of address, nuisance vegetation and too much garbage, trash and rubbish.

"I think the questions remain whether or not they were legally operating, and one, if they were legally operating, did the city make a mistake in issuing a permit?" City Councilman Warren Jones said. "And I think those are the questions in my mind."

Jones, who represents that area, said he's surprised to hear a nightclub is operating in the middle of the neighborhood that's plastered with "no parking" signs.

According to the city's zoning map, it's marked RLD-60, which means it's supposed to be a single-family home.

Built back in the '60s as a neighborhood market, it's possible that with the proper permitting it's grandfathered in.

The city has yet to confirm if it's legal or not. But Jones said it's up to citizens to make a complaint to help clean up the city.

"When you suspect something that's improper in your neighborhood, we always encourage people to call (904)-630-CITY to lodge a complaint, and they can remain anonymous, so you don't have to live in fear that somebody's going to find out who made the call," Jones said.

All too often, Jones said, neighbors never speak up, and because of city cutbacks, it's nearly impossible for code enforcement to drive around searching for violations, which is likely what happened at Chicago Club. But with a complaint call to the city, it should get the process started.

If there's a building in your neighborhood that used to be a market or barbershop but is now operating as something else, it's possible it's in violation, too.

In the early '90s, the City Council developed a 2010 plan, designed to convert properties that are out of place to something that's zoned more appropriately, making it compatible with the neighborhood. But that's possible only if electricity has been turned off for six months or longer.

Still, residents will never know if they don't make a call.

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to call police at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

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