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Council discusses Club Exclusive
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THE SAVANNAH City Council was told the owners of the troubled Club Exclusive have closed the business and will not seek a renewal of the club’s liquor license.

The latest violence at the club claimed the life of Derek Pernell Melton, 39, who was working at the club as a bouncer. City council members were told the owners have moved personal property out of the club, which is located at the corner of Bull and 41st streets, and relinquished the keys following the latest incident.

Melton died in the early morning hours of Jan. 10 when he tried to stop a drunken patron from firing a gun outside the club. Joseph Ian Brunson, 32, was arrested at the scene and charged with homicide.

Melton had escorted Brunson from the business earlier in the evening, but Brunson tried to re-enter the club. He was carrying a bottle of alcohol, so he was denied admittance, and, after arguing with Melton, left.

But Brunson returned a second time, this time with a gun. Melton tried to prevent him from firing it outside the club and the two men began struggling. Brunson fired the gun, and the shot hit Melton, who was rushed to Memorial University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Brunson tried to flee the scene, but other patrons of the club restrained him. He was an ex-convict, and also had at least one drunken driving conviction on his record.

Club Exclusive also had a spotted record. Another shooting death had occurred at the club on Jan. 21, 2007 when Pagliacci “Conrad” George, 33, and Cumberland Bush, 28, began arguing inside the club.

The two took the fight outside, where they both drew guns and began shooting in a crowd of people. When police arrived, both men were lying unresponsive in the street.

George was pronounced dead at the scene and Bush was taken to the hospital. After his recovery, he was charged with homicide and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

When the city council was asked to approve the club’s liquor license in February 2007, details of the first shooting were discussed. However, the council decided to approve the license since the shooting occurred outside the club, although it required the club’s owners to beef up security and change admittance procedures at the club.

City Manager Michael Brown said the city had already begun an investigation of the latest incident. “We’ve begun the process of looking at the operation of this place to see if the club contributed to or allowed this kind of death,” he told the council.

The incident would have to be considered if anyone else wanted to apply for a liquor license at the same location, Brown said. But Alderwoman Mary Osborne said such scrutiny might be unfair. “From my reading of what happened, I believe that the owners did what they were expected to,” Osborne said. “They had someone inside to take care of the patrons.

“It’s my understanding the patron went outside to retrieve a wallet,” she said. “We have to examine very carefully to see who was involved. We need to be open minded, not punitive. There is a business right next door that has had no problems at all.”

But others said the club’s history would have to be taken into account. Alderman Tony Thomas said the council would need to be cognizant of other violence incidents that had happened at the club in the past if someone applied for a license for that location.

City Attorney James Blackburn said the club’s liquor license had already expired as of Dec. 31, so it was operating without a license. “Any new applicant would have to make application and have a public hearing,” he said. “We would have to judge the new applicant.

“I would strongly suggest in any such hearing at this location that the issue be raised to the appropriateness of land use,” Blackburn said. “One of the difficulties facing us at this location is its present zoning.”

Alderman Van Johnson called on other council members to offer condolences to Melton’s family. Melton was married and the father of six children.

In other action, the council approved a resolution opposing the proposed closing of Georgia Regional Hospital and urging the governor, the Chatham County delegation to the General Assembly and the director of the Department of Human Resources to keep it open.

The mayor said the services provided by the hospital to the community are too badly needed to allow it to close down. “There is no comparable mental health facility in Savannah,” he said.

The council hired Miller 3 Consulting for a disparity study for the city, the school district and the county at a cost of $487,840. The cost will be shared equally between the three.

The study will document any disparities between the number of minority-owned and woman-owned businesses that want to bid projects, and the numbers who actually do bid contracts. It will review the procurement policies and practices of all three agencies and make recommendations to improve the participation of minority and women-owned businesses. Two other companies that bid on the project, Mason Tillman Associates Ltd. and MGT of America, both submitted protests to the recommendation to award the contract to Miller 3.

Brown said all the written and oral objections have been reviewed and the appropriate appeal process has been conducted. Based on the findings, Miller 3 still compiled scores higher than the other two, and Brown recommended approval of the contract.

The council declared a 2.45 acre parcel of property between the Truman Parkway and Varnadoe Drive as surplus so it can be offered for sale to Georgia Power, which plans to build a substation at the site. The site is on Montgomery Cross Road near Memorial Stadium and isn’t being utilized by the city. Georgia Power needs a new substation on the Southside to meet demands in the area and reliable uninterrupted power. Several sites were identified as potential sites for the substation, and many are owned by the city.

City staff met with Georgia Power representatives to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of all the sites. The Montgomery Cross Road site appears to be the most viable.