Knoxville v. Red Iguana: A Club Troubled, or Targeted?

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Old City, Knoxville (WVLT) - A fight this past weekend, may be the least of the troubles for an Old City nightclub fighting to stay open.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd takes a look at why a private party the Sunday before could give police and the Beer Board the ammunition to take away the Red Iguana's beer permit.

The club's lawyer claims the record doesn't reflect the Red Iguana's true colors.

Rather, it gets the blame for what goes on outside, or in other spots of the Old City.

This past Saturday night, police arrested one man, and questioned several after a fight broke out there.

E- 911 dispatch tells WVLT an officer called it in himself.

The more immediate issue: Sunday the 15th. The Knoxville Law Department claims the red iguana violated city code after police saw "two women simulating oral sex in a party room upstairs," that they had an audience, other bar customers, and that the red iguana's manager knew what the women were doing was illegal.

"Some of the police department personnel take it upon themselves to take issue with the kind of clientele that goes to the Red Iguana," says A. Philip Lomonaco, attorney for Red Iguana. "The city wants the club shut down, it's our opinion, because they don't like the clientele that's going to the club."

The club's attorney says the nude women were dancers, performing for a bachelor party and that the Red Iguana's manager stopped it once he realized it, but that police didn't want to hear it.

Instead, he claims, the law seems intent on shutting the place down.

But the Red Iguana's attorney claims it's proof and part of a bigger picture.

"Approximately 80 percent of the clientele that goes to the club is black," says Lomonaco. "The city wants the club shut down, it's our opinion, because they don't like the clientele that's going to the club."

The Knoxville Mayor's office says the Red Iguana's record speaks for itself, 151 police calls last year, more than two dozen assaults, two citations for selling alcohol underage.

"I would like the city to tell us how many times they've sent in undercover people who have not been able to buy beer," Lomonaco says. "The Red Iguana has the strongest security and the most rigid rules of any club in this town."

"Do you think they're doing a good job on security there?" Boyd asks Old City patron Brandon Morgan.

"From what I hear on the news, not really," he replies.

Last October, a Wednesday, five people arrested; police say, after fights broke out when somebody brought in a gun and it fired accidentally.

Two weeks ago Wednesday, a man shot in the leg after fights break out in a nearby parking lot.
"If you study the 911 calls, you'll see many of them have been made by the personnel at the Red Iguana, trying to enforce the law," Lomonaco says. "They don't get assistance. They get blamed."

"Do you think they're paying any more attention to one club over another?" Boyd asks Morgan.

"Uh, it doesn't seem to be that way, but I mean I could be mistaken," he says.

Attorney Philip Lomonaco claims the club makes clear, on its website and its walls, that it doesn't tolerate fighting. Weapons will get you banned. And you won't get in wearing ball caps, athletic apparel, long shorts, or long shirts, clothes often associated with gangs.

"It's just not really my crowd. If I had any interest in going there, I probably would, but like I said, it's just not my place to hang out," Morgan says.

"What else can the club do? Tell me one thing that the club hasn't done that has allowed that to happen?" Lomonaco says.

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