Club Empire voluntarily closed by owner after history of violence

TAMPA - After more than a year of protest from business owners and civic leaders, the doors of Club Empire will be permanently closed. The club has a history of violence, including murder.

With more than 100 emergency calls placed for incidents at the establishment and several murders over the years, the club, located on E 7th Avenue,  developed a dangerous reputation that troubled members of the community.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the club owner, Joel Brewer, decided to close the establishment voluntarily after a City Council meeting in October.

The club was temporarily shut down that same month after a shootout killed 20-year-old Leslie Jones and left Ahmaud Black,19, seriously injured. But the club's dangerous history dates back for years.

In 2002, a bouncer was fatally shot outside the club. In 2006, another victim was fatally stabbed in a nearby parking lot.

In December of 2009, an argument led to a 21-year-old man's death.

"I would like to commend Joel Brewer, the owner of Empire for agreeing to close his establishment and making the right decision for the greater good," he said.

A meeting held with Councilman Frank Reddick shortly after the October shooting resulted in a list of options for dealing with the problematic club, including shutting it down.

Brewer announced his decision to close the club at Thursday's City Council meeting.

"This will have a positive effect on Ybor that will resonate with businesses, residents, and visitors. It is a new day and night in Ybor," Mayor Buckhorn said.

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