WKYT Investigates | Pattern of problems: Neighbors concerned as new strip club eyes site of multiple shootings

Residents and business owners fear late-night crowds will fuel more violence.
Residents and business owners fear late-night crowds will fuel more violence.
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 4:22 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Residents and business owners are vocally opposing a new Lexington strip club, expressing concerns that late-night crowds will fuel more violence in an area that has experienced more than a dozen shootings over the past few years.

Trifecta Gentleman’s Club has applied for a liquor license and certificate of occupancy for 987 Winchester Road, a nondescript painted brick and block building the business is leasing that sits near the corner of Hillcrest Avenue.

The staunch opposition has arisen not against the business specifically, but against what it could mean for an area plagued by violence and crime. For years, people in the Lexington Manor neighborhood - directly behind several businesses along Winchester Road - have cited the nearby nightlife as a contributing factor for ongoing problems.

“Here we go again,” said Fred Roser. “I hate to say that, but here we go again.”

Roser and his wife, Karen, own Lexington Mechanical Service, an HVAC company just two doors down at 939 Winchester Road.

They are currently renovating and rebuilding the interior of their business after a large fire broke out last year in the building next door. Bullets flying outside of their building earlier this year shattered one of their brand new windows.

“The check hadn’t even cleared before they were shot out,” Roser said.

On another occasion: “I found 14 shells right up here at the corner of the building and picked them up off the ground,” Karen Roser said.

Lexington Police Department records show that the 900-block of Winchester Road has been the site of at least a dozen non-deadly shootings and three homicides since 2019:

  • 2022: At least four non-deadly shootings
  • 2021: Two homicides, plus three non-deadly shootings
  • 2020: Two shootings
  • 2019: One homicide, plus four others injured in three shootings

In that time, neighbors repeatedly blamed the violence in part on late-night crowds gathering in the area. And multiple open records requests filed by WKYT’s Garrett Wymer since February found reports of repeated problems on the property over the years that corroborated many neighbors’ previous concerns.

“On a Saturday night, it’s nothing to see this whole street full of cars,” one person who lives nearby told WKYT in Spring 2021, describing a common scene.

“During the day it doesn’t seem to be a problem,” a worker at a business nearby said of the violence. “Why it’s happening at night - and that place over there seems to be a magnet for it. I don’t know why.”

The building at 987 Winchester Road has been a revolving door of clubs in recent years.

Through an open records request, WKYT Investigates reviewed city certificates of occupancy for three previous companies in the building going back to 2016. In that time, multiple names adorned the building, including The Player’s Club, The Fox Club and The Office.

Through a separate open records request, WKYT Investigates obtained state Alcoholic Beverage Control documents charging two previous businesses located in the building with violations in the aftermath of reported shootings.

In a letter recommending administrative charges, a Lexington police detective specifically mentioned “issues we have had in the past in the area and with this business.”

It all makes Roser be cautious about when he comes to his place of work.

“I’m concerned about coming over. My employees are concerned. My wife’s concerned about me coming over,” he said. “It’s hard to come over here to even conduct business or run a business or pick up materials....My children all the time are telling me, ‘Dad, you need to be careful. Don’t go.’”

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council members have heard from Roser and others who have expressed similar concerns about the applications for a new business that could bring in more crowds.

“I think some of the activities and some of the businesses that go into the wee hours of the night and early mornings are a concern for a lot of residents,” said James Brown, who currently represents District 1 (which includes 987 Winchester Road) and was just elected as an at-large councilmember. “We’ve heard - our office has heard, as well as Councilmember Sheehan’s office has heard - some concerns about some of the businesses and activities in the Winchester Road corridor.”

Right now the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is still accepting feedback on the liquor license application.

And the city has not yet granted the new business a certificate of occupancy. It is still pending as part of a zoning plan review.

Brian McWherter, one of the owners of the new business, spoke with WKYT’s Garrett Wymer on the phone. McWherter is from North Carolina and says he was not initially aware of previous issues at that address. But he says he hopes before they open to clear up some misconceptions and allay neighbors’ concerns. He also says they will take steps to keep people safe.

“The businesses, I think, control, really, what goes on on the inside,” Councilmember Brown said. “I think it’s what happens on the outside of the businesses, really, is what’s concerning the neighbors. And I think their concerns [are] about how that’s going to be policed, so to speak, or how they’re going to maintain ‘law and order’ outside of their establishments.”

WKYT also reached out to the office of Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton, given the ongoing focus on reducing violence, to see if they have a position on the current applications.

“We are concerned with recent criminal activity taking place in our community, including in this area,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “That said, the applicant will be given the same due process as others.”

Money has been set aside for the city to work with the state on a study of the redevelopment of the Winchester Road corridor, Councilmember Brown said. He would like to see those efforts expedited, he said.

“We want the area cleaned up,” Karen Roser said. “We want the violence stopped.”

Pushing for redevelopment and rezoning of the corridor are also among the items on the Rosers’ to-do list, along with forming a business association with other owners near them.

“We’re here for the long haul,” Fred Roser said. “We could’ve bailed out earlier - a couple instances. I think most people would have folded up and gone.”