City shuts Brick House

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission unanimously voted Friday to revoke the business licenses for a recording studio mired in controversy.

The unanimous vote in a called commission meeting Friday morning stunned Brick House Productions Manager Daniel Loving, who minutes before the vote pleaded with commissioners to keep an open mind and "not just believe what you hear on the on the news or what the police tell you."

"I think it's a tragedy," Loving said. "This was an unfair proceeding because there was as lot of misinformation that was put out. We've been blackballed here ... there was a man murdered at the mall and no-one has said anything to them about closing ... a person was murdered at the Pic-n-Save and no one shut them down."

Mayor Willie Adams, who, like Loving, listened to about an hour's worth of testimony and evidence, said that despite the positive things Loving had tried to do with the facility, he wasn't able to control his patrons.

"He's trying to do some good," Adams said, "but unfortunately, the people who gravitate to that facility don't share his same philosophy. ... We have an obligation to the public safety and when there is a place that has invited as many incidents as this place has, it needs to go."

Adams said that Loving's argument about the slayings at the other businesses is without merit based on several factors, including the number of criminal incidents at those businesses. He also rebuffed the idea that the commission closed the club because of political pressure from the community.

"It's not pressure; its the right thing to do," Adams said.

Following the vote, Loving's two businesses -- Brick House Productions and Brick City -- must immediately cease to operate, city officials say.

During the hearing, both the city and Loving called witnesses and presented evidence in support of both their respective cases.

City Attorney Nathan Davis called Albany Code Enforcement Officer Nathaniel Norman and various police officers who had responded to at least four different incidents related to the business over the last two years. Davis also tendered into evidence what appeared to be an inventory or order list of beer and alcohol that was recovered by police during one of the raids on the business.

Also admitted into evidence against Brick House were photographs taken when police officers served a search warrant on the facility on March 15, 2008. The photos showed beer in ice in tubs.

In rebuttal, Loving, who was acting on behalf of owner Molly Loving, questioned the police officers and called witnesses of his own who offered explanations for some of the city's accusations.

One of Loving's witnesses, Chastity Nixon, said that she was living in an apartment in the same building but in a different suite than Brick City and Brick House and that the alcohol police photographed that night was in her apartment for her son's birthday party.

It had nothing to do with either business, she said.

Frank Inabinet, the former owner of Nabs Tavern, testified for Loving that the draft beer kegs found by police on an earlier raid were left behind when Nabs closed down, and that they were not functional.

"I had a guy that was supposed to have taken them back to the distribution center but they never did," Inabinet said. "They (the Lovings) were not responsible for that."

Additionally, Loving called people who had recorded albums and shot videos at the facility, including Erica Ferguson, who said that she does a lot of work at the recording studio and had just recently cut a track there.

"Our facility is not a club. People just associate it as a club because of Nabs," she said. "I hear and see shootings at places and clubs around town, but no one is trying to close them down. ... Think about that before you make a hasty decision."

After the evidence was presented, Daniel Loving presented a closing statement to the commission during which he said that any alcohol that was at Brick City had been brought there by customers who had rented the facility and were giving it out during their event to people who were of legal age.

"If you do this, you'll be stopping a lot of people's dreams and a lot of hard work," Daniel Loving said.

The hearing comes 14 days after LaSheldon Stanford was shot and killed outside the club early Valentine's Day morning.

During Friday's hearing, an Albany police officer testified that officers arrived "within seconds" of hearing the gunshots at the facility and found Stanford lying on the ground, shot seven times. A security guard was also shot but recovered.

Police have arrested several individuals in the subsequent investigation, but no one has been charged with Stanford's death.

After the hearing, Daniel Loving told reporters that while Brickhouse as a business was going away, the concept of helping the community and building music careers wouldn't. He said they would likely relocate.