A River Drive strip club that was the site of a fire and two shootings over the past eight days has become a nuisance, community members and Richland County Sheriff’s Department officials say.
The three incidents are far from the first time officials have paid visits to Crush Gentleman’s Club.
According to data obtained by The State, deputies were sent to the club 173 times since March 7, 2010, and filed 348 incident reports involving the strip club in that time span.
The club at 3722 River Drive is closed after sustaining about $100,000 in damages in a fire early Thursday morning. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by Richland County fire marshals. Richland County deputies responded to the fire.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the strip club has become a problem for the department and the surrounding the community. It’s become such a “magnet for illegal activity” that he hopes it doesn’t reopen, he said.
“Our hope is that it would not be rebuilt,” Lott said Thursday after the club caught fire. “It’s to the community and sheriff’s department’s advantage if it’s not rebuilt.”
A worker with Crush on Thursday said the owner would not comment on the number of deputy visits to the club but said the business plans to reopen within four weeks.
Wednesday, two men shot at a tow truck driver who was moving a car that was parked there illegally. Reco Maurice Bell, 24, and Antione Demetrius Caughmun, 25, were arrested in that incident and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery.
A woman also had to be hospitalized after she was hit by a bullet passing through a wall at the club March 1. The bullet was fired during a fight in the club’s parking lot late that night.
Willie Abrams lives down the street from the club. He said he has signed petitions to try to get the club to leave the neighborhood and echoed Lott’s sentiment.
“The club is not something the neighborhood is proud of,” he said. “We wish it would go away.”
Nan Brown lives about a block away from the club in a nicely furnished rental home. On the weekends, she said the street is lined with cars as people go into the club, and in the morning, her yard is littered with flyers and cups.
But it’s not just the traffic and litter that bothers her – someone shot a hole in her house about a year ago. She can’t be sure that club patrons are responsible, but it worries her that people bring guns to the club. The bullet hole is still visible near the ceiling of her living room.
“When that happened, it made me leery for a while,” she said. “I could have been injured.”
Willie Gunn has lived near the night club for several years. He said he never worried about the club until a bouncer was shot and killed by a Columbia attorney in 2006, when the site was home to Chastity’s Gold Club. Since then, he said he’s seen more questionable customers at the club, traffic on his street, blue lights and trash.
“It’s not conducive for safe living,” he said. “You’ve got a place with drugs and weapons and people foolish enough to fire those weapons.”
Staff writer Noelle Phillips contributed to this report.