Crime & Courts

In wake of late-night violence, Wichita police chief issues warning to Old Town clubs

Wichita police officers sit outside Indigo Lounge just before closing time early Sunday. The bar is one of two Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay identified as problem bars in Old Town.
Wichita police officers sit outside Indigo Lounge just before closing time early Sunday. The bar is one of two Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay identified as problem bars in Old Town. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay issued a stern warning to a couple of Old Town clubs – one of which was connected to a shooting early Saturday morning.

Ramsay said four people were shot during a large fight that originated after a concert at the Pandora Night Club, 116 N. Mead.

The fight started in Pandora just after 1 a.m., Ramsay said Saturday.

Club security staff pushed the fight outside but didn’t call police. The fight escalated outside, and at 1:25 a.m. shots were fired in the street near Pandora, he said.

An officer circulating in Old Town immediately responded, Ramsay said. Police didn’t fire their guns.

Four people were injured but none critically, Ramsay said.

No one has yet been arrested. The investigation continues, he said.

But Ramsay said police and Old Town merchants are fed up with the situation.

He identified two clubs – Pandora and Indigo Lounge, 126 N. Mosley – as the sources of the vast majority of violence in Old Town.

“Police can pretty much count on problems every Friday and Saturday night at these locations, specifically around bar close time,” he said. “There are regularly significant fights and disturbances associated with those clubs. Those crimes and disorder don’t exist anywhere else in Old Town.”

Ramsay said he would meet next week with Old Town business owners and call on the owners of Pandora and Indigo Lounge to cooperate.

That could include calling police earlier when things turn violent, refusing entry to known troublemakers, beefing up security and/or serving less alcohol.

If there is a lack of cooperation from bar owners, he said, the city will look at pursuing every possible law or ordinance against the clubs to enforce cooperation.

“There are all kinds of options on the table to use,” Ramsay said. “The leadership of this city and of that neighborhood is very concerned about this incident.”

Brian Arenson, managing partner at Indigo Lounge, said “it has been a struggle to meet with” police in the past.

“We tried to set up a meeting with the Police Department and it took us two months to get a meeting set up,” Arenson said. “They talk a big game about getting meetings on a regular basis with all the bar owners, and nothing ever follows through.”

Brad Steven, co-owner of Indigo Lounge, said he feels Ramsay’s comments “put us in a box with another place that has some problems and a terrible thing that happened last night.”

“We don’t really have very many issues inside the club – all the issues are in the parking lot when groups get together and are clearing out,” Steven said. “That’s when (police) need to have the staff.”

Steven blames the problem on low police staffing levels in Old Town around bar closing time. He said he and a collective of Old Town bar owners had agreed more than two years ago to pitch in money for the Wichita Police Department to staff more officers on weekend nights, and nothing came of the effort.

“The Police Department just dragged their feet over and over on it,” he said.

The club, which Steven said gets most of its business between 12:30 and 2 a.m., serves a “very diverse crowd, a crowd that likes to spend money.”

“We know the business, we know Old Town. We know how it works,” he said. “People go elsewhere and they come to us at the end of the night to dance and listen to good music. And I feel like this is kind of the police chief’s little workaround of making some racial comments – that’s his way to be PC about it.”

The owner of Pandora couldn’t be immediately contacted.

Ramsay said that since police have focused heavily on Old Town following a fatal shooting in 2013, crime and violence have dropped 277 percent.

“There has been success despite what happened last night,” he said.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt