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Revocation Proceedings Pit Club 740 Against Neighbors

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, February 06, 2009, at 08:02AM
Just like nobody else Daniel [Flickr]

On Monday afternoon, the operators of Club 740 will present their case that the formerly troubled club has cleaned up its act, taking measures to end a history of violence inside and just outside its doors. At the same hearing, neighbors from the Chapman building will make their argument that the club's noise shouldn't be tolerated next to a residential building.

At stake is the club's right to operate. The Planning Department last month started revocation proceedings for the club's Conditional Use Permit, without which the venue would be forced to shutter.

A New Super-Club for Downtown

The club is located in the historic Globe Theatre, built in 1913. In 1987 the facility was converted into an indoor swap-meet, and the sloping floor was leveled out with concrete.

Ralph Verdugo opened Club 740 in 2005, converting the vacant space into a multi-level nightclub. The space got buzz, and in August of 2006 the LA Times wrote of the club's "inroads with the celebrity crowd" and praised the "beauty, elegance and character sorely lacking in most modern super-clubs."

Not too long after, the negative attention followed. As part of an article that ran in April, 2007, the LA Weekly talked to LAPD Captain Andy Smith about Club 740. “I personally have met with the owners at least four times in the last year and a half and it continues to be a nuisance," Smith is quoted as saying. A followup article in June of that same year titled "Taming the Wild 740 Club" told of a letter sent to the Zoning Administrator by new Councilmember Jose Huizar, stating that the club had become a nuisance and asking for an investigation into whether its permits should be revoked. No revocation action was taken.

A History of Crime

The case file compiled by the Planning Department for the current revocation proceedings includes a thick stack of police reports. A review of their contents showed 36 crimes reported between July 28, 2006, and July 31, 2008. Included were reports for assault, assault with a deadly weapon and rape.

On March 3, 2007, a female was walking through the club at approximately 1:40am when she was assulted by her boyfriend's ex. Both were escorted outside.

On April 1, 2007, at approximately 1:30am a 24-year-old female was found unconscious on the floor of one of the club's balconies, missing her underwear and with her shorts off. She was "lethargically intoxicated," and at the hospital was found to have a .20 blood alcohol content level. No suspect was found.

On April 8, 2007, a male was walking through the club around 1am when he was grabbed from behind after refusing a suspect's request to go with him to the front door. He woke up at home with head injuries and was taken to the hospital.

On May 12, 2007, attempted murder charges were filed after LAPD officers sitting in their patrol car watched a male push the victim against a car and then pull a gun, firing a shot into his left arm. The officers pulled their own guns on the suspect and ordered him to drop his weapon, taking him into custody.

On July 22, 2007, a security officer was beat up with his own collapsible baton while trying to break up a fight in the alley.

On August 4, 2007, shots were fired into the club's parking lot by the occupants of a departing vehicle. One bullet struck a hot dog vendor set up in the lot.

In 2008, the number of crimes was down, but included were reports for rape and multiple assaults with a deadly weapon.

The report states that Verdugo has made changes to clean up the club's image, temporarily shutting down one of the weekend nights, targeting a "different clientele" with a "strict upscale dress code" and beefing up the security staff.

Trouble with Neighbors

Now, though, the club faces a new issue: noise. Next door, the Chapman Flats opened in May of 2008. A petition signed by forty residents of the building tells of walls that shake until "predawn hours," and patrons that congregate and make loud noise in the alley the club uses for its entryway. Those familiar with the building say that the club has led many residents to move out of the rental building.

A Zoning Administrator's Decision

While the process now underway is known as revocation proceedings, there are a variety of outcomes possible in the case. A hearing will take place on Monday, February 9th, at 2:30pm (City Hall, Room 1050). As that time the Zoning Administrator will hear testimony from the club and neighboring stakeholders.

Oftentimes, operators will offer additional conditions in order to stave off full revocation. In the case of Club 740, this could include reducing the hours the club is allowed to be open -- currently 6pm - 6am, seven days a week. It could also include additional security requirements and the provision of new security and operational plans.

The Zoning Administrator can choose to accept those conditions, impose conditions of his own, revoke the entire permit or do nothing. Given the history of the club, a central issue will be whether Verdugo's recent changes are enough to excuse several years of troubled operation.

There are several levels of appeal once the Zoning Administrator's opinion is issued, so no matter what the decision, Monday's hearing may not be the end of the matter.


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