City considers taking punitive action against Carousel Lounge

For the second time in about a year, the Columbus Consolidated Government is investigating Carousel Lounge.

The 3003 Victory Drive night club was the subject of city scrutiny in April 2013 after 20-year-old Shannon Calvin "Scooter" Fields Jr. was gunned down at the nearby Foxy Lady Lounge.

Although numerous crime reports were tied to both establishments, the crimes — mostly entering autos, simple batteries and theft by takings — were not severe enough to warrant a formal warning to the business, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said Monday.

But city officials reopened the investigation after 21-year-old Phenix City soldier was shot in the back in Carousel Lounge's rear parking lot early Sunday morning.

According to a police report, the victim left Carousel Lounge with a friend after visiting for about 30 minutes. While walking through the rear parking lot, four suspects in a dark blue four-door sedan fired seven to 10 shots at the pair. The soldier's friend sprinted toward a nearby building. When he returned, he discovered the victim had been shot.

Neither the victim nor his friend were able to give an accurate description of the suspects to police. Both said they did not engage in a confrontation prior to the shooting.

That shooting, which left the soldier in stable condition, comes less than two months after 21-year-old Marcus King was fatally shot outside the night club.

Though Carousel Lounge has long been the site of numerous crimes, it's the scale, rather than the amount, of crimes that determines whether a formal city inquiry is warranted, Tomlinson said.

Investigations into suspected criminal havens — such as the now shut-down Club Majestic and The Hole — must reveal a substantial number of drug, violence and prostitution cases before city officials issue a formal complaint against ownership. Government officials also look for alcohol beverage control and business license violations while building a case against offending businesses.

"We look at all of that and make sure they fall into all of those categories and then we send a letter and put them on notice that we're looking into this," Tomlinson said. "We did this in April of 2013 — set up a meeting with the lawyers of the Foxy Lady Lounge. The police chief and I met up with them when we had that outrageous murder and told them we were taking this very seriously."

It's not a process the city take lightly, Tomlinson said. The mayor has stated during similar investigations, such as the January probe of Mario's Restaurant, that government officials attempt to work with business owners to resolve issues before shutting down the businesses.

"We invite all businesses to come to Columbus Georgia and prosper, but you cannot be a criminal haven," Tomlinson said.

So far, city officials are reviewing 15 police reports dating back to January 2012 regarding the establishment. Many of those reports involve crimes such as theft by taking, simple battery and entering auto.

If the city determines the business is a "criminal haven," a letter will be issued warning owners to review their business practices, Tomlinson said.

"There's clearly something going on, but the record is not as good as some that we have had," she said.