Target 8 Investigation: History of Peppers
BOONE COUNTY- The old plantation home on Highway 763, now Peppers Nightclub, wasn't always known for its crime and violence.
"It was a nice, upstanding restaurant," said Detective Tom O'Sullivan.
Joel Harris Haden build the home in 1831, and over the years it became an upscale restaurant,the Haden House, just north of Columbia. An article from 1982 praised the Haden House for all the culture it brought to the area, a home built in history. A line in the article states all the place needs to keep it around for another 150 years, is a loving family to care of it. Not long after, the restaurant went under. Karon Rowe bought the building out of foreclosure in 1996.
In 2006, Rowe bought a merchant's license from Boone County for the building on N. Highway 763, the same year authorities busted Rowe for promoting prostitution at her old business, Lynn's Massage. When Rowe opened Peppers Nightclub, Sheriff's deputies began seeing area crime increase. Joint Communication records from 2008-November 2011 show deputies stopped at the nightclub 452 times. Joint Communication records only go back as far as 2008.
"What went on at Peppers was several times more severe than what they saw, as professional law enforcement, from any other bar," said Dykhouse.
O'Sullivan said Boone County deputies were at Peppers nightclub almost every single night, and the costs in time and money to the department were significant.
"It would be better utilized in other parts of the county, but we're spending manpower babysitting them," said O'Sullivan.
Rowe and her son, Fred Rowe, argue that these types of crimes will happen at any other bars, but Dykhouse and O'Sullivan disagree.
"You don't get those types of calls at other types of bars and taverns in Boone County. They're just not there. You can look for them--but you're not going to find them," said Dykhouse.
Boone County Sheriff's Department documents show a multitude of crimes, including seven shootings, four stabbings, and nineteen assaults or fights. These records only include closed cases, there are more incidents that are still ongoing that are closed records. The documents also do not show crimes that originated at Peppers, but spread to other businesses. KOMU 8 spoke with more than seven businesses in the area, and all but one expressed excitement that Peppers Nightclub was closing.
Waffle House was the only business whose management and employees said they were disappointed that the club closed down. One manager said it has already hurt his business. An employee, Rodney Cowe, said he has never seen any problems with crowds from Peppers, but night shift employees would often lock the doors when customers coming from Peppers ate at the restaurant. Boone County Counselor C.J. Dykhouse showed KOMU 8 at least eight incidents in 2011 at Waffle House that began at Peppers Nightclub.
Law enforcement documents show Petro Mart closed from 1:00a.m. to 3:00a.m. every night due to disurbances on the property that started at Peppers. Another business nearby found a bullet hole in its wall, that was from a shooting at Peppers.
Police reports described one incident in which 1000 people were packed into the Peppers parking lot, with cars blocking traffic on both sides of Highway 763. Reports also detailed incidents of drug and liquor violations, several times involving patrons drinking outside in the parking lot and after hours in the club.
Rowe denied allowing drinking after 1:30a.m., even though the club was open until 3:30a.m. A bartender told police Rowe would often serve minors in the nightclub. One report listed several employees suspected of being illegally paid in cash.
A Boone County Judge signed an injunction, shutting Peppers down and forcing Rowe off the property within thirty days.
Rowe is selling the property, which now has a specific list of approved uses and approximately $30,000 in needed sewer updates, along with her other business, The Answer salon.