AUBURN – A downtown Auburn nightclub could close its dance floor to keep its liquor license, according to the owner.

Midnight Blues Club owner Paul Morency said he would consider closing the most profitable part of his nightclub – the downstairs dance bar called “The Cellar Door” – if it meant he could continue operating the rest of his establishment.

“It would be the last ditch effort, but I’d do it if it was my only choice,” Morency said. “My goal is to stay in business. This is my livelihood.”

Police are recommending that the City Council not renew the liquor license and special entertainment permits for the Midnight Blues Club on Court Street. The permits all expire Aug. 9. Councilors have scheduled a public hearing at their regular meeting next Monday.

Phil Crowell, acting police chief, said officers responded to 136 calls for service at the club in the last year. That included 18 assaults, 22 fights and 21 complaints of disorderly conduct. Those calls led to 32 arrests.

By contrast, police responded to eight calls for service at the similarly sized Club Texas, three at Gritty McDuff’s and none at Pat’s Pizza and Gippers.

“There is just no comparison with any other establishment in the city,” Crowell said.

The club was in a similar place last year. Faced with mounting police calls at the club, the city put Morency on a three-month probation last August. He agreed to special training for bar staff, no marketing of oversized drinks or double shots, no drinking contests or volume discounts and nightly cleanup outside the club. Bouncers were required to keep better control of patrons both inside and outside of the club, and Morency agreed to pay for police officers on the premises.

Crowell said the problems went away, and Morency was granted a full permit in November 2005. Then, the problems began again.

“It’s poor management that allows these things to take place,” Crowell said. He alleged that Morency’s staff overserved customers, letting them drink too much. The bouncers also let known troublemakers return again and again.

Morency denied that, saying his bouncers keep a long list of names of people banned from the club. He’d also spent thousands of dollars on ID card scanners, portable breathalyzers, metal detectors and other tools to help his staff.

But Morency admitted the Cellar Door is the biggest problem because it attracts a different clientele than the Midnight Blues Club on the main floor.

Midnight Blues Club attracts an older crowd that calls it a night by 11:30 p.m. The Cellar Door attracts younger people who are rowdier, drink more and stay later.

“But the Cellar Door is not the problem,” Morency said. “Society is. It’s the people that go there. And if this club is closed down, they’ll just go someplace else.”

Morency also criticized the city, saying it worked to help him establish his business downtown when there was nothing else there.

“I’ve invested a million dollars there, and now you want to get rid of me, now that the downtown is becoming a success,” Morency said.

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