Club owner found in contempt

STEUBENVILLE – The owner of Club 106 on South Street was found in contempt Monday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. for allowing parties in his closed social club.

But Bruzzese also gave club owner Derek Smith a chance to purge the contempt finding and $250 fine if he follows restrictions on the number of people in his building and complies with city requirements in order to obtain an occupancy permit.

“I want to work with you. I want you to obtain the certificate of occupancy. And I need you to show the court you are doing everything possible to get your plans approved by the city. I am willing to work with you but I am not willing to give you carte blanche,” Bruzzese told Smith.

Bruzzese also ruled Smith and five other people are permitted in the building from dawn to dusk.

“You can also have a contractor with you during that time. But from dusk to dawn only Derek Smith and one other person can be in the building. I would also like to see the occupancy permit issue with the city be worked out very quickly,” stated Bruzzese.

Bruzzese had issued a permanent injunction on Feb. 12 preventing Smith from occupying or using the building he owns on South Street as a social club until he gets a city permit.

The injunction request was first heard in October, but Bruzzese gave Smith more time to obtain the necessary permits from the city. His attorney, Gary Stern, has argued the city is thwarting Smith’s attempts to get the permits.

Smith told Bruzzese Monday he planned to file architectural plans for renovation at the building with the city’s planning office Monday.

Smith testified, “a gathering” was held at the building on March 3.

“There were around 20 people in the building who brought their own alcohol. It was an event that had been scheduled prior to the judge’s injunction. I tried to notify people by Facebook that the event was canceled but not everyone got the message. I actually forgot about the event. My wife and her brother were present at the gathering but I don’t know who let everyone in. This was originally supposed to be an after party following a birthday party at a different location,” stated Smith.

“I was home ill so I wasn’t there. Normally I charge for an event but this time I didn’t charge anyone. I didn’t call it a party. I received a phone call stating the police had come by so I went there for a few seconds to try and clear the place out,” Smith added.

“I used to have gatherings two nights a week for the last four years. But I have not done that since the judge issued an injunction,” said Smith.

He also admitted to “a gathering” Saturday night.

“There were about 10 people there. Everyone had their own alcohol and we did not charge admission. My wife has 10 brothers and sisters. We can’t always get together in a house so we have a gathering in my building,” said Smith.

City Police Sgt. Brian Bissett testified he was on duty on March 3 and saw “at least 40 cars parked around Club 106. I also saw people going in and out of the building. We had been dispatched regarding a report of someone possibly waving a gun in the parking lot. We did not see a weapon violations.”

“I was patroling the area on St. Patrick’s Day and saw at least 20 vehicles parked near Club 106 at various times. And I have seen activity at the building between Feb. 12 when the injunction was issued and March 3,” Bissett testified.

“Mr. Smith is doing whatever he can to not treat this place as a social club. He is doing his best. No one has been in that place that says it is a danger or continuing hazard. I wish the city would do more to help Mr. Smith to comply with their requirements,” Stern said.