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Shooting at after-hours clubs has DA calling for law change

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 12 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2012 09:57:26 AM CDT

The debate over so-called "after hours clubs" is heating up again after a deadly shooting at one of them in April.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

The debate over so-called "after-hours clubs" is heating up again after a deadly shooting at one of them in April.

The members-only clubs are allowed to serve alcohol at hours later than bars, but Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin is now pressuring state officials to reexamine their licenses.

It's a long road local law enforcement has been down before.

On the streets, he was known as the rapper "Ohead," but when police said Michael Randolph tried to force his way into the North End Republican Club five weeks ago, he became one of Allentown's latest shooting victims.

"It's been a tragic course of events," said Robert Smith Jr., Republican Club president.

Security guard Andrew Gesslein was charged last week with voluntary manslaughter.

"He was protecting himself, and unfortunately, I think he was overzealous in shooting three times," said Smith.

"After-hours" establishments like the Republican Club and others are allowed to serve alcohol until 3 a.m. Martin believes it's a recipe for trouble.

"Many of them are already under the influence of alcoholic beverages by the time they arrive, and they're going to continue their drinking," said Martin, who is now pressuring state liquor control officials to look at the licenses for after-hours clubs, including the Republican Club. "The shooting of Mr. Randolph occurred at approximately 3:10 in the morning, and there were still people queuing up to get in."

Smith insisted, in spite of the crowd outside, the club does not serve alcohol later than allowed.

"Last call is at 3 a.m. The music is cut down at 3:15, and everyone is out of the building by 3:30 sharp," said Smith.

Law enforcement has been down this road before. A judge shut down the Down Low Club in Allentown in 2008 after nearly 50 police calls, including one for a dog fighting ring.

Smith insisted his establishment is not a nuisance.

"We've had one shooting in 75 years and we're being labelled a nuisance bar," he said. "It's not true."