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Wednesday, June 8,2011

Temperature change

With added security, one entrepreneur is set to revive an infamous nightclub spot as — another nightclub

by Andy Balaskovitz

Assaults, shootings, destruction of property, underage drinking. 


That’s part of the illustrative history of 6810 S. Cedar
St. on Lansing’s south side, the site of a 15,000 square-foot, two-story
nightclub riddled with crime and party-fueled violence. Since the
mid-1980s, these walls have known the thumping beats of DJs and, more
recently, plenty of visits from the Lansing Police Department.


And guess what kind of business is having a red-carpet, grand-opening celebration on Friday night? 


Patrick Wiseman and crew were putting the finishing
touches on the inside of Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge and Grille Saturday
afternoon. A few red leather booths needed installation. TVs had yet to
be hooked up. A private, VIP cabana had a water fixture flowing, but no
seats installed. But Wiseman promised one feature is in place for his
new “high-end concept”: security.


“Security is our biggest issue,” Wiseman said, looking out
from the second-floor walkway overlooking the club. A key component to
security is a trust system between club owners and the city, he added:
“(Past owners) lacked that trust.”


Wiseman said a “52-page legal agreement” between him and
the city puts that trust in writing. Fahrenheit’s 35-person security
staff will monitor the one-block radius around the club. A “tough dress
code” suggests a “button-up collar shirt with slacks and ‘hard soled’
dress shoes” as proper attire for men and “classy and sexy” attire for
women, as it’s written.


“What we’re making sure is that the right demographics are
here,” he said. “Dress code, promoter, music — that truly determines
the outcome you’re going to have.”


Capt. Mike Yankowski of the Lansing Police Department said
Wiseman approached the department with his concept a couple of months
ago.


“Part of their security plan is not only making sure
things were safe inside the club but also making sure they’re taking
responsibility of the outside and parking lots,” Yankowski said. He then
rattled off past calls the LPD responded to at 6810 Cedar: fights,
assaults, arson, underage drinking, trespassing, stabbings, shootings,
destruction of property — and that was just off the top of his head.


“We’re hopeful that they’ll be a successful business and
nightclub and operations are peaceful,” Yankowski said. “As long as they
follow the rules and guidelines and laws, there’s not going to be any
problems.”


Wiseman said “cultural issues” explain the club’s troubled
history. He said it became known as an “R&B club that catered to
the African-American population” but that previous owners did not make
efforts to curb violence. After it was known as C.J. Barrymore’s in the
early 80s, Wiseman said the club started going downhill once owners —
with “good intentions” — opened L.A. Globe in the late 1990s. City Pulse
has reported that between October 1999 and February 2001, L.A. Globe
received 93 police visits.


The L.A. Globe story, though, comes with a bit of racial
tension in its own right. After former owners filed a $25 million
federal lawsuit against the city for closing the club on discrimination
grounds, the city settled for $200,000 rather than go to trial.


Wiseman also cited “stripper syndrome” — that situation in
which club owners start making unexpected amounts of money and spend it
on bigger-name artists rather than extra security.


“Due to the lack of security, the lack of professionalism, things got bad,” he said.


After L.A. Globe shut down, Germaine Redding — who is
Fahrenheit’s lease holder while Wisesman is the general manager — ran
Venue and most recently Level II, which closed at the end of February.


Under Redding’s watch, it didn’t get much better. On Feb.
14, Level II’s next-door neighbor — the Causeway Bay Hotel — wrote a
letter to the Lansing City Council detailing how Level II and The Venue
wreaked havoc on the hotel’s business.


“On several occasions our hotel has experienced a large
(outpouring) of their patrons running into our lobby after 2 a.m., to
wait for the chaos from the nightclub to calm down. There have also been
a couple incidents where a suspect was being chased through our
property,” the letter, written by the hotel’s assistant general manager
Jodi Guild, says.


“Most importantly, these unfortunate events have posed a
fear/threat to our regular clientele, as well as many prospective
clients that our sales staff works diligently to generate.”


Guild said Monday that “our boss prefers we don’t comment”
on Fahrenheit opening. “Obviously, we wish our neighbors the best of
luck in business,” she said.


When he first approached the city with his idea for a
nightclub, Wiseman said a phone call to City Council President A’Lynne
Robinson began with her saying she’d be his “biggest competitor” to
opening another nightclub there. Attempts to reach Robinson were
unsuccessful. The same went for the property owner, whose “every other
word was no” when Wiseman suggested the idea.


But it appears Wiseman was able to mend those bridges.


“We believe the new management has a good plan to change
the image, which is needed,” said Lori Mayabb, a property manager for
Holiday Park Realty, which owns 6810 S. Cedar St., a strip mall made up
of 10 separate parcels. 


“When the new owner (Wiseman) gave us his business plan,
we asked the correct questions: Where did the previous owner go wrong?
How do you intend to correct it?” she said. “We had to be convinced. We
can’t afford any more incidents.”


Wiseman, 32, was formerly a general manager at Club Excel in Lansing. He said operating a nightclub is his “childhood passion.” 


Wiseman touts Fahrenheit as “the only flare bar in western
Michigan: bottle-flipping, fire-breathing, cascade-pouring bar. Kind of
like the movie ‘Cocktail.’”


Wiseman had the inside of the club remodeled from “Barney
purple,” blue and gray to black and red. He said he has invested about
$50,000, including labor, to improve the site and will maintain a
64-person staff. He hopes the property will lose such nicknames as
“Titanic” and “The Monster.”


“When we started, nobody thought this could be reopened. It was grim,” Wiseman said.


The club holds 640 people. The upper floor will be for VIP
parties at night and food service in afternoons. Notable menu items
include “Fahrenheit wings” and a two-pound burger. (Wiseman claims the
wings are so spicy that you’ll have to sign a waiver before eating
them.)


An enclosed, 12-person, $700-a-night cabana with a water feature is also available for rent.


Wiseman’s goal is to make Fahrenheit a
“destination,” competing with high-end nightclubs in Grand Rapids and
Detroit. He hopes to bring in a “mega-show” every other week, adding
that he has been in booking talks with managers of Deadmau5, Tiesto,
Humpty Vission and Bad Boy Bill. 


“We bill ourselves as an international club scene with a
Michigan attitude,” Wiseman said. “Typically in Lansing for true
clubgoers, it’s east or west. Are we going to Grand Rapids or Detroit?
Now people don’t have to look at going to Detroit or Grand Rapids.
People go to Lansing.”

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