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By DAVID REID
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HOLYOKE - Police Chief Anthony R. Scott said last week he will not allow off-duty officers to work at the Latin Spot nightclub because of recent gun-related incidents there.

The chief also criticized the License Commission for failing to shut down the 440 High St. nightclub, as he had requested in a recent letter, because of recent incidents involving guns and underage drinking. As a result, Scott said he will file a formal complaint asking the state Alcoholic Beverages Commission to take action.

Last Thursday, the commission continued a scheduled revocation hearing until Feb. 3 after club lawyer Shawn P. Allyn said his clients were improperly notified about the hearing. At that meeting, commissioners were also handed police reports on 80 incidents at or outside the club during 2004.

One of the more serious incidents occurred Dec. 31, when a 19-year-old city man was shot while dancing at the club. Police said the incident was gang-related and said the victim and his girlfriend were intoxicated.

And after a November call from inside the nightclub about two men with firearms, police said, they arrested two armed suspects when they exited the club via the front door.

Allyn said police versions of the incidents were flawed, and said he has not yet seen the investigative reports. And he told commissioners that club managers have employed a security firm with a metal detector to screen patrons and want to hire an off-duty police officer for Thursday and Saturday dance nights.

License commissioners have not required security personnel be hired at the club.

But Scott said Friday he will not allow his officers to work inside the club unless two are hired, which he said would be cost-prohibitive.

"A lot of gang members hang out there," he said. "Alcohol and guns don't mix. And you've got a bad mix there."

The chief said the License Commission's failure to act decisively in response to gun and underage drinking allegations is a slap in the face to the department and leaves him vulnerable if someone else gets shot.

"It's a hop, skip and a jump until someone gets killed," Scott said. "And you know who they're going to blame: me."

The chief said he will send a formal complaint this week to the ABCC, citing the local commission's failure to suspend or revoke the club's license.

Allyn said Saturday his client deserves to be fairly treated and suggested the Police Department and license commissioners have ignored numerous violations at other city bars.

"My clients have civil rights," Allyn said.

Mother Nature, meanwhile, seems to have accomplished in the short term what neither Scott nor the License Commission could do: shut down the bar.

Saturday morning, the Fire Department yanked the nightclub's occupancy permit after a leaky roof resulted in an electrical short in the club's fire alarm system. Officials said yesterday the building owner was still working to fix the roof.
 

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Nice to see the Chief stick up for his Officers' safety! It amazes me how so many places like this manage to stay open.
 
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