WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Officers have been dispatched to the Rhino Club in downtown Wilmington nearly 200 times in the past three years, according to police.
Authorities say a 19-year-old patron was stabbed and killed near the club early Monday morning after a fight broke out in the area.
According to witnesses, a large crowd was leaving the Rhino Club at closing time when the altercation began. They told officers that 30-40 people were involved and three men were stabbed. Taaron Jones died and the other two men are in stable condition, expected to recover.
Joey Perkins said he used to visit the Rhino a lot, but stopped going when he felt bouncers became too lenient on patrons.
"Before they would be a lot stricter on clothing," said Perkins. "You couldn't wear certain things; you couldn't wear solid color T-shirts or anything that could be gang affiliated."
Although the fight didn't happen inside the club, the establishment has taken some heat. Some people call it a "trouble spot" in the area and question what it will take for the ABC Board to step in.
Perkins thinks the location of the club could contribute to its negative reputation. The bar is located across from a parking lot where many people congregate at the end of the night.
"There are a lot of people hanging out at all times," explained Perkins. "You also got Slice of Life right there. So everyone comes out of the bars trying to get a piece of pizza. People are walking down Market Street to their cars."
Regardless of the location, Mayor Bill Saffo wants bar owners to take more responsibilities for their customers. He's asking owners and employees to have stricter policies and to step up security.
The mayor hopes state lawmakers will give local leaders the authority to close down establishments where violence continues to happen.
Saffo believes members of the North Carolina ABC Board have done their part by not allowing more bars to open in downtown Wilmington.
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322 Shipyard Boulevard