Envy Nightclub was overflowing and raucous when I visited the Sunday night before Memorial Day.
Last night, not so much.
The city is trying to shut down the Minneapolis club at 1st Avenue N. and 4th Street N., following a wave of late-night crime in the Warehouse District. Closing time outside Envy and nearby venues was often a madhouse on Sunday nights, when they catered to the 18 and over crowd, and the surrounding streets have already had a few shootings this year.
The city boosted its police presence downtown in July and made agreements with Envy and some other establishments to suspend 18-plus nights on Sundays. Last week, officials said the City Council would try to revoke liquor licenses for Envy and Bootleggers, which is down the street. Inspectors had reported seeing fights, drugs, and underage drinking there.
So it was a subdued night at Envy, with far fewer – and less boisterous – clubgoers.
Where did everyone go instead? Young partyers jammed Aqua Nightclub next door, where there was a “Blackout Bash” for people 18 and over where attendees dressed in all black.
That’s partly why, when the clubs let out at 2 a.m., the bedlam outside looked similar to the scenes chronicled in the Star Tribune here and here in the spring.
Screaming youth streamed onto 1st Avenue as police sprayed tear gas and Mace, even as no major fights were witnessed. Several cops rode horses. Bouncers yelled, “Keep it moving! Let’s keep it moving.”
“I can’t breathe!” yelled one woman, nearly collapsing onto the sidewalk. “Oh my gosh, I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! Oh my God, man, I cannot breathe.”
A clubgoer who went by the name Crisis Fresh, 29, said he didn’t like being maced, but “you get immune to this after a while. Cough it off, two minutes, and you’re back to normal.”
Sahnie Badd, 24, said the cops sprayed in the opposite direction of where she was parked.
“We’re that way, but they’re making us go this way. It’s like a battle you’ve got to go through.”
Close to a dozen Envy security guards in yellow-green neon shirts lined the outside of the building, keeping watch as the crowds dwindled. One complained that Envy had not caused any of the problems, but was paying the consequences. The city’s crackdown would put them all on the streets with no job, he argued.
Police Sgt. Steve McCarty said Monday that clubs would be examined on a case by case basis.
With Aqua, “you can’t just say, ‘Okay, you’re having an 18 and up night, we’re shutting you down’ … at Envy, they had problems,” he said.
With so many cops swarming the streets, the sidewalk in front of Pizza Luce no longer hosted the rowdy crowds that once congregated there. The customary smell of marijuana had been replaced by the stench of horse manure. Police had so little tolerance for mayhem that they ordered one driver stopped at the intersection out of his car for honking five times in a row.
It was not the worst evening, observed Daniel Johnson as he watched the scene unfold.
“Nobody,” he said, “got shot tonight.”
© 2013 Vita.mn