NEW WEST OWNER BANNED FOR FIVE YEARS - The Explorer: Import

NEW WEST OWNER BANNED FOR FIVE YEARS

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2002 12:00 am | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

After all the fights, sexual assaults, shootings and murders that occurred in and around the New West/Gotham Nightclub in Marana over the last five years, it was a police report about a fight that resulted in a broken nose and two chipped teeth that state liquor regulators used to shut down the club.

The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control effectively closed the bar Jan. 23 after entering into a consent decree with New West/Gotham co-owner Kirby Bond that forbids him from holding a liquor license in Arizona for the next five years.

The agreement also calls for Bond to sell the license he holds for the bar, 4385 W. Ina Road, by June 14 or forfeit it to the state. A Hooter's restaurant and bar at the same location is not affected by the state's decision.

"The level of violence had simply become unacceptable," said Lt. Jesus Altamirano, a spokesman for the state liquor department.

While Altamirano said the overall "history of violence" at the New West/Gotham led to the state's decision to close the club, a copy of the consent decree indicates two Marana Police Department reports were used to help level the final violation that sealed the bar's fate.

The most recent of the two police reports documented a patron assaulted by three men outside the country-western themed New West on Dec. 9 -- about two weeks after Bond and co-owner Dana Delheim voluntarily closed the adjacent Gotham.

Delheim said in an interview last month that Gotham, which catered to a mostly young crowd that flocked to the hip hop and alternative dance music played there, was closed because it was the source of the violence occurring at the huge bar complex.

At the same time Gotham closed, the New West was reduced to operating two nights a week until Jan. 1, when it, too, was voluntarily closed by the owners.

Neither Bond nor Delheim could be reached for comment.

According to the police report, the 35-year-old Tucson man had his nose broken and two front teeth chipped after allegedly being assaulted by three men, one of whom claimed the victim had "insulted his girlfriend."

After the beating, the victim and a witness told police they asked New West employees to call 911.

"They had asked repeatedly for law enforcement to be called and had been assured by the staff at the nightclub that this had been done," MPD officer Randi Davis wrote in a police report. "It should further be noted that per the (police) dispatcher on duty, there had not been any calls from the nightclub reporting this incident."

The victim claimed he waited outside the New West for over an hour for police to respond after being assured by New West employees that police had been called. He was then driven to the Northwest Medical Center by his brother and Marana police were notified.

At the time of the assault, The New West/Gotham was already facing 10 liquor law violations filed by state liquor investigators for repeated acts of violence and a failure to protect patrons, according to Altamirano.

The 10 charges were reduced to one count of repeated acts of violence in the final consent decree. The remaining charge was dropped under the agreement with Bond to surrender the liquor license.

"At that point, we didn't really need any charges in place. The focus was on getting the liquor license and closing the bar down," Altamirano said.

The second police report used to help leverage the agreement, and the source of the 10 liquor law violations, centered on a riot Oct. 17 in which one man was shot in the leg and seven people, including a Marana police officer, were injured during fighting that broke out after a rap concert.

Police said more than 40 shots from at least five different weapons were fired during the riot.

The incident led Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr., to instruct Marana Town Attorney Dan Hochuli to investigate ways the town could either reduce the amount of violence at The New West or find a way to "shut the club down."

Hochuli said the town's investigation resulted in a memo to the Marana town council that offered possible legal actions the town could take against the nightclub, but he refused to release the memo or comment specifically on its contents citing attorney-client privilege.

"I will tell you that one of the strongest things in there related to the regulatory authority that lies with the liquor department," Hochuli said. "If they pulled the liquor license, that would resolve the issue of the New West in a way that didn't have a lot of legal ambiguity … my sense was let's see what the liquor department does because if they pull the liquor license, that accomplished the goal."

Hochuli said he was not consulted by the state's liquor department on the decision to close the New West.

In May 2000, the liquor department moved to revoke the bar's liquor license for liquor law violations, including failure to protect a patron after 24-year old Westyn Lee Tanawa Hamilton died Jan. 2, 2000 while struggling with the club's bouncers.

Hamilton's death was ruled an accident by the Pima County Attorney's Office.

In June 2000, shortly before the liquor department rendered its decision on the New West/Gotham's license, Sutton and Marana Police Chief David R. Smith wrote letters to the agency supporting the bar and its owners.

The bar was later fined $12,500 and ordered to upgrade its security, but retained its license, after a one-week suspension.

Smith, and a majority of the Marana Police Department, had worked as off duty security for the nightclub from 1997 to just a week before Hamilton died. The contract between Smith and the bar paid MPD employees and estimated $250,000 during that period, according to Delheim and documents obtained from the town.

Smith could not be reached for comment. Sutton was out of town at a government conference.

At least three people died at the club since it opened as the New West/Gotham in 1997.

Marana police received more than 200 calls from the club last year.

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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