Council weighs permit request for Classic Touch nightclub

moorhead city council 

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The future of a nightclub that opened in north Moorhead less than six weeks ago was considered Monday as the City Council weighed a request by the city planning commission to approve a conditional use permit that carries specific requirements for its operation.

The Classic Touch Lounge, which opened in early February, occupies a building at 11th Street and 15th Avenue North that has been a nightclub since the 1930s until about five years ago. Best known as Jerry’s Supper Club, it is owned by Riley and Nicholas Aadland, who operate a day-care and events catering business called the Brothers’ Table in part of the building.

The new business is operated by Gerald Bailey and Kaluah Smith. They describe it as a diverse, multi-cultural nightspot featuring a wide variety of music, including African, rhythm and blues, jazz, calypso, pop and country. It has been open Wednesdays through Sunday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. – one of the issues that came up during the meeting.

The club drew three noise complaints from neighboring residences during its first two weekends of operation – a problem cited by neighbor Jason Ness, who spoke during the council’s public comment period. The Holiday Station Store across 11th Street has also objected to spill-over parking from the club’s lot, which is partially obstructed by piles of snow. Most recently, several individuals who presumably had been in attendance left the club and fired several gunshots into the air; another traffic accident was linked to a driver who had been there.

These issues came up when city planner Robin Huston presented the council with a request for a conditional use permit that had been approved and forwarded by the planning commission. She noted that the presence of a nightclub in that location complies with city zoning, and that the club owners were issued a liquor license permitting them to sell until 2 a.m. by the city council in January.

The permit recommended by the commission carries 11 conditions, Among them: Limiting operation until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and midnight Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday; maximum occupancy of 300; a requirement for 46 parking spaces; supervision to prevent loitering in the vicinity; no outdoor seating; and a “solid, opaque 7-foot fence” separating the property from the adjoining mobile home park. It also requires sound abatement conforming with city noise control standards, with no sound from the interior audible to someone standing on any of the property lines. Violation of these requirements would permit the council to consider revoking the permit.

Kaluah Smith, one of the partners, told the council that security is on hand on the premises. He said the partners had approached the Moorhead Police Department about having an officer on hand at closing time, a practice he said is common in the Twin Cities. While agreeing with the concept, he said, the department stated that police presence could not be guaranteed because only four officers are on duty during those hours.

He said they have tackled the noise problem with additional insulation and have security staff on hand to prevent problems. The parking issue and the gunshots, he pointed out, are outside the area the club can supervise and control.

Ward 1 council member Ryan Nelson pushed for adding a condition to the permit – development of a detailed security plan that would be submitted to the police within 30 days for approval. When council member Deb White pointed out there was no clear responsibility for police approval, that was reduced to submission of such a plan to the city itself.

Council member Larry Seljevold observed that conditions like those being added to the permit process seem to single out the Classic Touch for a level of scrutiny not applied to existing liquor establishments elsewhere in the city. “I think we’re being a little harsh, to be honest,” he said. “This establishment is doing the best they can. The same problems could occur at any bar or club that’s located within a block or two of residential areas, which is most of them. If the same things happen in other businesses, are we going to do the same thing we’re talking about here?”

White agreed. “This is not consistent with the way we treat other establishments in our community. Do we require a security plan approved by the police for any others? The conditions recommended by the planning commission would get us to the same place. If we approve this permit and problems occur in the future, we can remove the permit,” effectively closing down the business.

Hendrickson, who was serving as mayor pro tem in Shelly Carlson’s absence, noted that the council has turned down only one conditional use permit in his nine years on the council – a cell phone tower eight years ago.

In the end, with no resolution in sight, council member Laura Caroon made a motion, seconded by Seljevold, to table the permit discussion until the next council meeting March 27. Huston cautioned that action must be taken by the deadline of April 13; if not, the permit will be deemed approved under Minnesota law.

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