Public Torn Over Pepper's Closure
COLUMBIA - Pepper's Night Club in Columbia is closing after the circuit court of Boone County issued an injunction against the night club Tuesday. A 21-year-old man was shot and killed outside of Pepper's early Sunday morning. A press release issued by the Boone County Sheriff's Department Tuesday references dozens of shootings and stabbings that have occurred at Pepper's in recent years.
The club's history has some residents pleased it is closing. KOMU spoke with one resident who said his home in a neighborhood near Pepper's had lost property value because of crime in the area. Crime he believes flocked to Pepper's.
An attendant at a gas station down the street from Pepper's said fights sometimes moved from the club to the gas station.
But despite its colorful history, some residents don't agree that Pepper's was the problem. Lorenzo Lawson, a bishop from Columbia, knows the shooting victim's family personally. He says things like the shooting at Pepper's could happen at any club. Lawson says it is the people involved that are the problem, not the location.
"I don't think closing it down is going to stop it. They are going to go someplace else. You know, it has to be more than that. We have to do a whole lot more than that."
Lawson says the city and county can do more to help avoid situations like this one.
"Those involved in this situation were young adults. But even that, there can be more for them to do positively, and have more programs to help them to change some of those bad behaviors."
The bartender who worked at Pepper's the night of the shooting spoke with KOMU Tuesday evening. She said the reputation surrounding Pepper's is unfortunate and undeserved. She insisted the owner, Karon Rowe, took steps toward making things safer in the club, and its parking lot.
"We had seven trained staff members working that night. Two guys were at the door all night. That was their job, to walk around the parking lot and make sure no one was hanging around," she said.
The preliminary injunction against Pepper's states the night club must stay closed for at least one year, but the club's bartender told KOMU Rowe is considering going out of business.