Violence continues to disrupt Shockoe Bottom businesses as two shootings, an armed robbery and a street shooting, both occurred within four days of each other between the 1800 and 1700 blocks of Main Street.
Six people were injured during the armed robbery at Liquid Café in Shockoe Bottom this past Saturday morning, shortly after 5 a.m. A street shooting took place outside Plush Restaurant and Lounge the previous Wednesday, wounding three and resulting in the arrest of 25-year-old Darroll G. Allen of Chesterfield County.
The man was said to have been kicked out of the club, later returning with a firearm and injuring one of the bouncers at the club. He was charged with felony malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, but the two suspects involved in Saturday’s armed robbery remain unidentified. None of the injuries from either incident were considered life-threatening.
“I am certain that we can all agree that this increasing gun violence in Shockoe Bottom is unacceptable. This cannot be the norm,” said RPD Chief Alfred Durham in a statement after the shooting. “Someone knows the perpetrators of this crime and we need the public’s help. We need people to call us when they hear or see something. We are already working with several stakeholders in the Shockoe Bottom community and we will continue to develop public safety strategies to reduce violence and bring a sense of calm to the area.”
According to Department Spokesman Gene Lepley, these strategies will include increased police presence on weekends and potential road closures to allow for pedestrian-only walking areas in particularly busy street sections, such as the 1800 block of Main Street.
Liquid Café is not active in the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association. Virginia ABC Spokeswoman Dawn Eischan said both Plush and Liquid Café are under investigation, and Virginia ABC is working with Richmond Police. Plush’s wine and beer license is suspended until further notice, and their liquor license has been revoked.
“Virginia ABC believes that there is a continued threat to public safety at this establishment and these actions are necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public,” said Eischan.
Local business owner William “Mac” McCormack is relieved after learning Virginia ABC’s decision, as he and several other business owners in the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association have contested the licenses of several Shockoe Bottom clubs in the past.
“We felt [these clubs’] level of promotion was not conducive to the neighborhood,” said McCormack. “No matter how much effort we made with the ABC Board, they were still granted the license. They’ve had a continuation of violence the last couple years. It drives me a little bananas as a business owner because we’ve been trying to prevent these types of nightclubs from opening because there’s this kind of violence that happens outside of them.”
McCormack is particularly frustrated with the response from the City of Richmond as well as RPD over the past eight years, as their reactions to violence have been to increase police presence and introduce road blockades rather than rezone, revoke business licenses, or decrease maximum occupancy limits in nightclubs. According to McCormack, preventing access to local business caused by the blockades have directly affected his sales. Total sales over his 21 years of businesses average $650,000 to $700,000 per year, yet after introducing blockades, sales dropped to $62,000 in one year.
He hopes that in the future, all Shockoe Bottom businesses will focus on their local community and take responsibility for the neighborhood around them.
“As a neighborhood, we are working hard on trying to make some changes but we’ve been trying to make these changes for eight years,” McCormack said. “The city’s answer is to obstruct our businesses with blockades, and I don’t know if that’s a good answer.”
However, the owner of Plush nightclub, Juan Wilson, feels he’s being unfairly targeted.
“I’m big on accountability. If something were to happen in my venue, it’s a different story, but when something happens on the city streets or sidewalk, we have no control over that,” Wilson told WTVR in a recent interview.
The Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association held a meeting earlier this week with business owners, but according to WTVR, Wilson said he was not invited to the meeting.