“The 508” Club Owner Claims Liquor License Suspension is Due to Race

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Two days after 18-year-old Frederico Thompson, Jr. was shot and killed at the 508 nightclub on Indianola Road, the State of Iowa slapped a notice on the 508's front door, informing owners Merrett Investment Group, LLC that the club's liquor license has been suspended.

"The City Attorney`s Office reached out, they asked us to summarily shut down, suspend that license and they provided the rationale for that," said Robert Bailey, Public Information Officer for the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. "We analyze that rationale and then we act," said Bailey. "If we don’t feel that the rationale is sufficient, we might work with the city officials, but in this case, we felt that the rationale was significant and so we did a summary suspension of the license."

Bailey explained what that rationale was, "The violence that was involved, a lot of police calls...the history of the police record that they (the city) sent along with that application for a summary suspension...included a lot of weapons that they found, a lot of fights, a lot of neighborhood disruption."

In response to our reporting the suspension of the liquor license, Teneshia Spears of Merrett Investment Group, the owners of the liquor license, sent us this message on Facebook. "You guys want a story... why don't you do some research on why only black owned bars get shut down in des Moines? ...every bar is the same, some just get extra attention and targeted by the city because of race." Spears also left comments on our Facebook page, writing, "common denominator with carbon and johnny macs is they are not a minority. Yes I am pulling the race card..."

Both the State and the City say race has nothing to do with these decisions. "The application for a summary suspension didn`t come with any sort of racial notes or anything like that," said Bailey. "It was based entirely on the activity around the establishment and the safety of the neighborhood. I mean, if there`s guns being shot off in a parking lot, it`s not safe in the neighborhood."

“I hadn’t heard that, those allegations," said Mayor Frank Cownie. "We don`t look at who goes in and out, quite frankly, I don`t even know most of the time who owns these establishments, you know, we just listen to the recommendations, we listen to the concerns of the neighbors and other businesses and we look at the detail of reports that our given us and we make a determination."