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NV had a lot going for it: central location, a large floor plan, a patio deck and a well-capitalized owner. In 2008, The Pitch sponsored a DJ contest at the club. Eventually, though, NV became associated with violence and other misbehavior.
In May 2009, the city suspended NV's liquor license for 60 days. The suspension was handed down a few weeks after an incident outside the club that left four people with gunshot wounds. On a different night, a female bartender whacked a bottle of Grey Goose against a patron's head. Gary Majors, the manager of Regulated Industries, once told The Pitch that police officers used to see the club's bouncers get involved in melees that the bouncers would deny happened when police asked about them.
Hedgepath used the suspension as an opportunity to rebrand the business. The club reopened in October as NRG. A couple of new consonants did not alleviate the problems. In December 2009, a woman told police that two NRG employees had taken her to an apartment and raped her after a cocaine-dusted after-party at the club. Last year, the owner of a record label accused Hedgepath of slapping him in the face and then ducking behind a bouncer. A few weeks after that incident, a man who left NRG at 2:30 a.m. was shot in the buttocks.
The club demanded a lot of police attention. Patrol cars responded to more than 100 disturbances in the first nine months of 2010. In addition to shootings and fights in the street, the cruising along Admiral Boulevard caused traffic headaches and left nearby residents cursing the invention of the subwoofer.
Hedgepath's days as a middle-aged clubland prince were numbered. His attorney suggested selling the club in lieu of a liquor-license revocation. The plan was for Hedgepath to run the club until he found a buyer. But after a weekend last September, during which the streets around Xpressions were misty with pepper spray, the city encouraged Hedgepath to shut it down.
The liquor-board hearing was held in a community center on Kansas City's East Side.
Eric and Natasha Union, dressed in formal business attire, formed a prayer circle with their employees and other supporters before they entered the building.
The Unions are in their 20s. She works at Quintiles in clinical treatment. He's an events promoter. They incorporated Unique Entertainment, the business that bought the bar from Hedgepath, last August.
Tables for the key participants had been arranged on the stage of the Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose Center. As Mary Jane Judy, vice chairwoman of the liquor board, laid out some ground rules, Hedgepath entered the auditorium and took a seat toward the back of the room.
Beth Murano, an assistant city attorney, presented the case for revoking the liquor license. Her first witness was Majors, a former police major who moved over to Regulated Industries in 2007.
Majors said he met with the Unions last November to talk about their foray into barkeeping. The meeting took place in his office in the Century Towers building. Majors, who testified that he had concerns about the Unions' inexperience, said he gave the couple tips on crowd control. He said he told the Unions that the nightspot's history of violence could not continue.
New Year's weekend did not cure Majors of his ambivalence. Off-duty deputies had been hired from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office to provide security in the immediate area around the nightclub. But the deputies felt undermanned when a fight broke out at Admiral and Grand on January 1. Shots were fired in a nearby parking lot. When the gun smoke cleared, officials in the Sheriff's Office decided that deputies would no longer work special duty at Xpressions.