KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville authorities have shut down an Alcoa Highway strip club they said was a constant source of trouble for the community and law enforcement.
Knox Country Judge Steve Sword ordered The Ball Gentlemen's Club at 3005 Alcoa Highway to be closed as a public nuisance based on a homicide, shootings, fights and other violent disturbances at the club.
"We've had fights in the parking lot, we've had gunplay, we have an active criminal case with a homicide here, we have an attempted homicide here," said Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.
The DA's office said the Knoxville Police Department responded to 88 calls at the club, including one homicide. People also called for help multiple times over the years to report shots being fired at the club, and KPD said officers had to break up large disturbances at times.
Last month, three people were arrested at The Ball. KPD reports showed two women and one man were arrested for aggravated assault, public intoxication and disorderly conduct. The president of the club, John Nichols, provided this statement about the arrests:
"The individuals who were involved in the disturbance Sunday morning were not customers or patrons of the business. They were trespassers who had been denied entrance into the business and had been repeatedly asked to leave the premises."
But, records show The Ball has been a consistent source of trouble for Knoxville authorities. Within the last year, authorities have been there at least 15 times. Within the previous five years, police responded to 55 disturbances, one assault, three shootings, 11 loud parties and one overdose.
"Owners, managers, and employees of The Ball are either unwilling or incapable of controlling the criminal activity occurring on the property, leading to an environment that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to patrons and the surrounding community," General Allen said. "In short, The Ball operates as a haven for criminal activity, is known in the area as such, and is a continued threat to this community."
One of the biggest complaints from neighbors is the operating hours of the strip club.
"There are neighbors very close to this establishment and this establishment is open, most of the calls that we get are three, four, or five in the morning," General Allen said.
The neighbors who live on the hills behind the strip club said they hear everything.
"There are a lot of residents who live in a condo complex, which is really close to that back parking lot. So, they have really experienced the worst of the noise, the music, and the traffic," said Cindy McLaughlin, a neighbor of the gentlemen's club.
McLaughlin's home is tucked away in the hills behind the establishment. But, she says that the noise carries.
"The neighborhood as a whole, people are afraid. We've heard gunshots. We've heard of all the things going on down there," Mclaughlin said.
10News spoke with McLaughlin back in July of 2021 when a man was shot and killed in The Ball Gentlemen's Club parking lot. Two others were injured in the crossfire that night, according to KPD.
But, McLaughlin said she's heard gunshots on many other occasions, as well.
"I heard the night that they did have the shooting. But, there's been other nights that there were shots fired off," Mclaughlin said. "And, that noise did travel and you could hear it back into the subdivision."
For the next week, neighbors will not have to worry about the noise coming from the club. The nuisance action requires the strip club to halt business until an agreement can be made in court.
"We will work with a business owner to try to bring the business into compliance, to allow them to stay open," General Allen said. "If we cannot reach any type of agreement, then we will ask for a permanent injunction to shut the business down permanently."
Nichols released the following statement on June 2:
"The business that today is The Ball Gentleman’s Club has operated as a legal business for more than 30 years at this location.
Like many other establishments that provide live entertainment to the public, we have not been immune to occasional unfortunate behavior.
Many of the complaints outlined in the order we received today, however, did not occur in our establishment but were the result of actions of people who were trespassing on our property and whom had been repeatedly asked to leave the premises.
We are consulting with our attorneys, and we plan to vigorously defend our right to operate our legal business."
McLaughlin said the HOAs in the area tried to come to an agreement with the club prior to this nuisance action.
"They seemed to be responsive to us. But, things didn't really change. Obviously, they couldn't keep it managed. Right? He couldn't police it right. He couldn't offer the security that he needs to have to keep these problems from continuing to happen," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said she has mixed feelings about whether the establishment should permanently be shut down.
"On one hand, you hate to see people lose their jobs. You do have to think about that and you hate to see any business owner be shut down," she said. "But, on the other hand, you can't be allowing all these things to happen that impact your neighborhood and the businesses around you. That's not okay."
John Nichols and The Ball Gentlemen's Club will have the opportunity to reach an agreement in court.
That date is set for June 9th.