SPD Tells SoDo Club Owners To Clean Up Drugs, Violence (UPDATED)

UPDATE on July 22, 2013: Studio Seven’s owners have successfully completed the terms (PDF) of their Chronic Nuisance Property agreement with the city. Since SPD declared Studio Seven a Chronic Public Nuisance in May, the club’s owners have worked closely with SPD’s South Precinct complete the terms of their agreement, creating a much safer environment for patrons and neighbors in SoDo.

The owners of a SoDo nightclub could soon face hefty fines or even closure due to ongoing problems with drugs and violence at the business.

This week, the Seattle Police Department sent a letter to the owners of Studio Seven, located at 1st Avenue and S. Horton St, officially putting them on notice that their club has become a drain on police resources, and a hub for crime.

“This issue has been building for a long time,” South Precinct Operation Lieutenant John Hayes wrote in a department memo on Studio Seven. “We have tried several approaches to assist this business. This property needs to be declared a chronic nuisance property.”

SPD is now using the city’s Chronic Nuisance Property ordinance to force Studio Seven’s owners to address ongoing issues with violence and drugs at the club, or face fines of up to $25,000 and the possible suspension or revocation of their business license.

“There is a tremendous amount of police overtime that’s going into monitoring the clubs, and that’s not fair to the greater community,” Lt. Hayes says. “Resources are being tied up in a place where there is violence, drugs, and other problems going on.”

The department’s letter to Studio Seven’s owners contains a list of 14 different incidents officers responded to at or near Studio Seven over the last 10 months.

In one incident in February, a 22-year-old man lured a 16-year-old girl out of the club and into a vehicle, where he choked and raped her. Officers later arrested the 22-year-old man.

Later that month, a group of three men beat another man with a shotgun and then robbed him as he walked toward Studio Seven.

Police have also been called to the club three other times to take assault reports from club patrons. In one of those incidents, officers arrested three men at the club after they attacked a patron and several members of Studio Seven’s security staff in an out-of-control mosh pit.

In addition to the violence, police have also found ongoing problems with drugs and alcohol at the club.

In December, two teenage girls were hospitalized after attending events at Studio Seven. In one incident, a 14-year-old girl overdosed on hallucinogens while at Studio Seven. A week later, a 16-year-old girl was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning following a private party at the club.

Officers have also seized dozens of ecstasy pills from drug dealers at the club, and Studio Seven’s staff are apparently aware of problems with drug dealing inside the nightclub. They have even gone so far as to work with their own informant inside the club, to tip them off to drug dealing. Still, problems have remained.

Just last Friday, May 11, officers found 25 bags of marijuana, pills, white powder, ecstasy, and an electronic scale on a man who ran from police outside Studio Seven.

According to South Precinct’s Lt. Hayes, SPD has been working with the Studio Seven to try to fix these problems, but ultimately Studio Seven’s security staff don’t appear to have control over what’s happening in the club. “A [Studio Seven] security person told me, you don’t realize how many assaults I’ve stopped and how much I’m keeping things under control,’ Lt. Hayes says. “I told him, ‘if you have violence and drugs and other issues going on around there, and it’s hard for you to control it, there’s something wrong. Individuals feel comfortable enough to be violent and do drugs. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

The department is now asking the club’s owners to, among other things, better train security staff, install surveillance cameras, and keep detailed records of problems at the club.

“They acknowledge they have problems,” Lt. Hayes says, “but I think they unless their hand was forced, I don’t think they were aggressive enough in gaining control over what they needed to do. Our number one priority is safety for the community and safety for our officers.”

Click here to view a copy of the chronic nuisance letter sent to Studio Seven this week, and please visit the Seattle Office of Film and Music’s website for more information on the Seattle Police Department’s nightlife security training program.