Under fire: Is the Elks Lodge getting a bad rap?

After working a long shift as a chef at the Main Street Arena on Friday, March 15, Kenny Jenkins headed over to the Elks Lodge on Second Street NW for a drink and a dance with his fiancée. A longtime Charlottesville resident, Jenkins has been going to the Elks Lodge, a historic African-American fraternal organization with deep roots in the community, for over 30 years.

"It's a nice place to go, to relax, to see old friends," says Jenkins, 50. "Most people respect the Elks because it has a long history, or their parents went there. Now," he says, "it's really the only place for black folks to go."

Jenkins says the club scene on Friday nights has always been for older, working class African-Americans, but that younger people have started to go there because there are so few other places for them in Charlottesville. On that particular Friday, says Jenkins, an altercation broke out inside the club and a chair was thrown. Out on the street, as Jenkins and other people were leaving the club, the violence suddenly escalated.

Sitting in a cab he had just hailed, Jenkins heard a gunshot and then saw a Charlottesville police officer draw his gun, shout "drop your weapon!" and fire twice.

In the aftermath of the shooting, which left two men wounded and is still officially under investigation, the Elks Lodge has come under fire as a place with a history of chaos and violence after their Friday night dance parties. Nearby business owners have expressed outrage, and the City's police chief has vowed to "aggressively" deal with the problem.

But Jenkins and two prominent African-American leaders say the Elks Lodge, a black club in a predominantly white district, is being unfairly maligned.

Police call records obtained by the Hook appear to bolster that claim. 

A violent night

According to the first search warrant filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court, when the party let out after midnight, March 16, several men, including 22-year-old Culpeper County resident Leon T. Brock, tried to jump 56-year-old Albemarle Country resident Frank D. Brown on the street outside the club. Brown, however, according to a second search warrant, was allegedly packing a Hi-Point .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun and, according to the warrant, fired on Brock. As Brock lay wounded on the street, partially propped up against a car, Charlottesville Police Officer Alex Bruner arrived on the scene, drew his own weapon, a Glock 21 .45 caliber semi-automatic, and ordered Brown to drop his. Brown didn't.

Two bullets from Bruner's gun ripped through Brown's body, one that lodged in his abdomen, and another that passed through his right arm and embedded in a nearby utility pole, according to the most recent warrant. Brown and Brock survived their wounds, and no one else in the large crowd outside the Elks Lodge that night was hit by the bullets. Bruner remains on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation.

Following the shooting, City Councilor Kristen Szakos called dealing with the problems at the Elks Lodge "imperative," and said that more security was needed at the club. Nearby Fellini's #9 owner Jackie Dunkle was vocal about her concerns about disturbances and violence at the Elks Club, and its effect on her own business.

Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo, who says he has been meeting with City Manager Maurice Jones to discuss the issue, told the Hook that his department is prepared to deal with problems at the Elks Lodge in an "aggressive, but lawful manner."

Indeed, police reports show that the Elks Lodge has been on police radar for some time, with roughly 150 calls to service at the Second Street address since 2008, and 54 in 2011 alone.

Dunkle told the Hook that she has chosen to close early on Friday nights so that her own customers don't pour out onto the street at the same time as the Elks crowd, and that, on average, she has to call police concerning some problem at the Elks Lodge at least two Fridays every month.

"Fighting is part of the norm on Friday nights when there is a party there," Dunkle has previously told the Hook.

"People who can't get into the Elks wait in the parking lot for friends to come out– you can watch it unfold," she says. "Come and stand on my roof one night, and you will see the craziness and listen to the shouting and name calling which usually ends up in a fight, all the way down Second Street to McGuffey park."

The Hook has left repeated phone messages with the Elks Lodge, trying to reach the group's president, Pete Carey, but at presstime there was still no response.

According to police reports, places like Fellini's #9, Miller's, and BW3 across town (which was also the site of a recent brawl and shooting incident) have had their own share of disturbances. At Miller's, for example, police have responded to 30 reported assaults, 98 incidents of disorderly conduct, and 41 cases of public drunkenness since 2008, compared to 14 assaults, 49 disorderly conduct incidents, and nine calls for public drunkenness at the Elks Lodge during the same period. Miller's, of course, is open seven nights a week, while the Elks Lodge events are typically only one night a week, but the overall fact remains: police have been called to Miller's more often than the Elks Lodge in the last five years. In total, since 2008, police have been called to Miller's 406 times.

Comparatively, Fellini's #9 is fairly subdued, with only three assaults, 17 disorderly conduct calls, and 17 incidents of public drunkenness. As for BW3, police have responded to 12 assaults, 41 incidents of disorderly conduct, and four public drunkenness incidents since 2008. Again, Fellini's #9 and BW3, like Millers, are open seven days a week.

"It's a black/white thing, no doubt," says Jenkins, speaking about the focus on the Elks Lodge as a problem after the shooting, despite the fact that police have been called to Miller's almost three times as much. "At Miller's, you got thugs coming up in that place, too, and those two guys at the Elks could've shot each other after drinking there." 

"It's not an Elks problem," Jenkins says. "It's a Charlottesville problem."

A call to Miller's management had not been returned by presstime.

Charles Alexander, one of the "Charlottesville 12," the first group of black students to enter all-white schools in 1959, and who is now a motivational speaker, recently told the Hook that the Elks Lodge is a "Charlottesville institution," one that has supported the African-American community in many ways over the years.

Indeed, as previously reported, Alexander recalls playing for the Elks Club basketball team in his youth, because he wasn't allowed to play for the all-white team at Lane High School. 

Today, Alexander teaches a seminar called Yo, let it go, designed to curb youth violence among teenagers by teaching them how to "let go" of frustration and anger. If you don't let things go, Alexander preaches, you end up hurting yourself, others, and the community. Indeed, at the heart of the Elks Lodge shooting lies a painful lesson about what can happen when anger and frustration, combined with a substantial amount of alcohol and a lethal weapon, are used to settle conflicts.

However, Alexander says, the Elks Club has been invaluable to the community for many years, and the focus on this one event, this one venue, he says, diminishes that contribution and ignores the problems that are more widespread.

"Skin is just a cover, but we live in a society where skin color does play a role," says Alexander. "You can call that the 'race card,' but it's real."

Indeed, one wonders what the public reaction would have been if the shooting had taken place on the Mall outside, say, Miller's, and involved its patrons. Would there have been the same focus on the establishment? As noted, Miller's has a history of disturbances just like the Elks Lodge. But, had the shooting happened there, would calls for beefed up security or even its closure have been made?

Alexander doubts it, and in an interview just days after the incident, he described the real problem as "people rage."

"People are on the edge, and we're all walking time bombs these days," he said. "This kind of thing could happen just as easily at Fellini's #9 or anywhere else."

That comment got the attention of Hook readers. "Patently ridiculous," one online commenter called Alexander's statement, calling it a "racist" attempt to "deflect a problem that seems to be systemic in a black establishment by hinting that the problem could happen anywhere."

"The inference in Alexander's comments is that the hubbub is being created because the Elks is a black establishment," wrote the commenter. "The classic 'well, if you are going to look at this black bar, then you need to look at everyone else' argument."

"I understand Mr. Alexander saying, 'people are raging,'" says Dunkle, "but it comes down to civic responsibility. Don't shoot anyone. Especially when you have just consumed mass quantities of alcohol. Don't go to your car and get your gun and shoot someone. And saying it could even happen at Fellini's #9– seriously? I don't need to have a metal detector at my front door. If someone is causing problems, I kick them out and call the police."

NAACP president Rick Turner told the Hook that he's "puzzled, but not surprised" by the media and police attention the Elks Lodge has received after the shooting, given it's a black organization in a predominately white district. A violent shooting like this also "puts a different twist on things," he says, as it alarms and frightens people, but he says the issue really boils down to the question, "How responsible should restaurant and club owners be for what happens outside, when members and customers leave?"

Turner, who told the Hook that there are mixed feelings about the Elks Lodge among the black community, has called for a discussion about the incident between Elks Club officials, nearby business owners, and the community at large.

No where to go

As Jenkins points out, places like MaxTrax on 11th Street, Odyssey on Pantops (where Aunt Sarah's Pancake House used to be), and Katie's on Route 29 used to be places where black people gathered, but all those establishments closed starting in the early 1990s.

"Now there's the Elks Lodge, and that's it," says Jenkins. "There aren't a lot of black-owned businesses in Charlottesville anymore."

Indeed, while the Downtown Mall is flanked on the south side by a predominantly black neighborhood, there are virtually no black-owned businesses or organizations on the Mall, with the exception of the Elks Lodge. In Charlottesville, a city with a black population estimated at roughly 20 percent, according to 2011 census data, there are so few black-owned businesses that the census lists no percentage. By contrast, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a college town of similar size, the black population is estimated at 9.7 percent and an estimated 3.6 percent of businesses are African-American owned.

Back in the day, says Jenkins, black and white people used to mingle at places like Katie's on 29, but that's not so much the case anymore, he says. Black people, he says, want to hang out at places like  the Downtown Mall, but he says he and others don't always feel comfortable or welcome.

"I went to play pool upstairs at Miller's a few times," he says, "and all the black people would be on one side and all the white people would be on the other. It's like, 'I'm okay with you during the day, or at work, but at night, you go over there with your people and I'll go here with mine,'" he recalls.

The us/them mentality was evident in the moments after the March 16 shooting. As a white reporter moved among the exclusively African-American crowd outside the Elks Lodge, a man who appeared to be in his late 30s, who was neither drunk or disorderly, approached and spoke.

"You a reporter?" he asked. "Oh, great. Now we can expect more negative publicity for black people."

Hopefully, that won't be the case, as City Manager Maurice Jones, along with Police Chief Tim Longo, say they plan to reach out to the owners of the Elks Lodge, and the community at large, to open a dialogue on the issues raised by the shooting and other incidents of violence and tension in the city.

"You make sure you get it right," the man said. "And tell the whole truth."


re: "In Charlottesville, a city with a black population estimated at roughly 20 percent, according to 2011 census data, there are so few black-owned businesses that the census lists no percentage. By contrast, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a college town of similar size, the black population is estimated at 9.7 percent and an estimated 3.6 percent of businesses are African-American owned."

I wonder if Chapel Hill, a college town of similar size, went through the "urban renewal" program that decimated the African American community of Charlottesville. I wonder what the rate of African-American owned businesses in Charlottesville was before "urban renewal".

Those that claim that the history of racism and discrimination in this country and region has or should have no effect on today's society are either wrong or willfully misrepresenting the truth.

The real problem with this whole situation seems to be you can't play on both sides of the fence. Everyone wants to be treated equally and get along, but then it is OK to be separate when it is convenient. Why is there an NAACP? The white version would be call racist or the KKK, but this one is acceptable. Why don't black people feel comfortable in all the other clubs and bars in Cville? Have they tried to socialize with the other patrons? Is it honestly because they are not owned by black people? Really? How many people actually know who owns most of the businesses they go to? It seems that as long as you are respectful, follow the rules and have a good time you should feel accepted at any business..no matter your color...money is green and that is what matters to most businesses. Now if you bring guns, start fights or create commotions in a business you should feel uncomfortable...white, black, Asian, Mexican, etc. Bottom line is the only way people will mix together is if there isn't a double standard when it seems convenient.

There have been problems at the Elks Club , and other downtown places true.But there have also been problems at bars at the UVA Corner. And I seem to recall seeing an article in the Hook last year or sometime about how the police got called to the city's precious "Haven" 130 some times in the first 10 months it was open! If that had happened at a private club it probably would have gotten shut down and its ABC license pulled.
Its a people problem. If a certain lawless element was not causing problems at the Elks Club they'd be doing it somewhere else. Deal with them, not go blaming management of a business for what some customers do. I am sure Mr Carey does not want violence and disorder anymore than anyone else does. And remember too, that shooting could just as easily taken place outside Millers or at the Corner or anywhere else.

You can't blame the race problems on urban renewal. Before Vinegar Hill was razed people lived in squalor right there where staples and Mcdonalds are today and they lived in nasty shantys with leaky roofs and outhouses. That was only 50 years ago. They were mostly renters. Those that owned their home were given great deals to buy homes in better neighborhoods The renters were built a nice new air conditioned hi rise with all kinds of city help. Everything was great until they started letting criminals live there and handed out welfare when a womans husband left (or was kicked out being told , "i don't need you" because they got a check when he was gone. )

Virtually every house on vinegar Hill would have been condemned by now and the people would have been displaced as the slumlords sold out 1 by 1. All the "urban renewal " did was give these renters nice homes and the security of a roof over their head.

Racisim exists but so does all kinds of prejidice from every group. Meanwhile there are more and more minority busineses being opened everyday and while there are obstacles it can and is being done.

There is a seperation of races in this town but it is by choice. Those who choose to integrate do and those who choose not to don't.

Look up the graph on interacial births and you will see it goes strait up like slick willys plumbing at a beach party. Somebodys getting along.

The real, real problem is a black problem. This is taken from Juan Williams editorial in the March23 WSJ but it is chilling when you read the facts.
from the editorial - "Murders with guns are the No. 1 cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34. But talking about race in the context of guns would also mean taking on a subject that can't be addressed by passing a law: the family-breakdown issues that lead too many minority children to find social status and power in guns.

The statistics are staggering. In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 54% of all murders committed, overwhelmingly with guns, are murders of black people. Black people are about 13% of the population.

The Justice Department reports that between 1980 and 2008, "blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide."

The dire implications of these numbers is evident in a Children's Defense Fund report that included a chilling historical perspective: The 44,038 black children killed by guns since 1979 (when national data on the age of gun violence victims was first collected) is "nearly 13 times more" than all the black people killed by lynching in the 86-year period of 1882 to 1968."

So until the black community acknowledges it has a gun problem - it won't change. How many of those other places had gun related issues ? It's the shooting on the street that has people upset - that's the bottom line.

It seems clear to me that whining about the past and using that as a crutch to avoid personal responsibility is the answer. Clearly a better solution than a mother and father ensuring their child finishes high school, goes to college THEN gets a job and a spouse THEN has a child.

Plenty of support and options exist in a place like Charlottesville. It is not hard to get into PVCC. It is not impossible to pay cash for PVCC, although if the priority is bling and big rims and a smart phone it does get tougher.

Someone wants to break a bad cycle, well they need to do it- not look around saying its the fault of my surroundings.

Funny Jenkins mentions Katie's and MaxTrax (I can't say about the Odyssey) - these were two other bar/clubs that catered to an out-of-control lower socio-economic group (let's just call it what it is - this is a class issue).

Sure, Miller's and the rest have "disorderly" and "drunk" (combo offenses almost certainly) but not so much the brawls and certainly not the shooting.

And yes, it's perfectly fair to target and criticize a "business owner" who repeatedly tolerates clientele who engage in behavior like this. Once or twice, no problem. Those "patrons" should then be banished from the premises.

So let me get this straight. You are comparing the quantity of police actions at these establishments since 2008. One place is open, at most 52 times per year for just a few hours at a time, and the others are open 365 days a year for, say, 12 hours a day. I think your quantitative analysis is like apples to oranges. You know this but are forced to follow the narrative that white people are bad and black people are victims of systemic racism no matter how frequently they prey on one another.

@Gern. Curious how many police calls would be required for the average bar that is opened 365 days to match that of the Elks?

And if all the restaurants/bars on the mall had the same ratio...how many police would we need?

Why does this need to turn into a disquisition on the foibles of black folk (or one on What Whitey Done To Me either for that matter)? The issue is whether or not the Elks is a disproportionately anti-social ASBOtic joint among other places that have the cops called more often than the typical Blue Ridge Road residence. And it sounds like it is. But it's not open all the time so the gross impact may be less than other full-time places (and tax revenue much lower since they do BYOL). You can be sure that there are plenty of folks within the Elks that are tired of this nonsense and just want to have a good time together. And it does sound like a parking lot issue because the only thing being thrown inside is chairs, and that's just having fun, Saturday Night Fish Fry style.

I'm one of a select minority of white boys that's been downstairs at the Elks so I'm not a Liberalace or J Hendrix crackashine. But it does sound like they need to get their house in order.

And if you're a real Charlottesvillian, fill in the blank: Pete Carey's Soulful _____.


Bill Marshall got my point exactly and spoke to it directly. Sorry that you have to equate "history" and "facts" with whining.

My point is that the higher ratio of black-owned businesses in Chapel Hill is probably directly related to the urban renewal of 50 years ago. I'm sure you're aware that businesses and possessions are handed down from one generation to another?

I feel I should type slower for you since it's been shown in studies that those that tend to hold racist beliefs are less intelligent than those that don't. So I'll stop here, give you some time to read the comment.

So suggesting that someone get an education, then job, then marry and save some money then have kids.... makes me racist. Or is it the fact that when I state such the first thing that pops in your mind is a picture of what color person? You made what assumption?

And yes, your lack of tolerance for anothers viewpoint of things such as education and marriage shows you to be a true liberal.

Guessing the intelligence point has been self fulfilled by your post.

@jimi, your ideas on the preferred progression of education toward child-bearing seem sound to me, but your equating meanwhile's intolerance of others' viewpoints with a liberal political position is illogical -- liberals tend to be more tolerant of other viewpoints, not less, compared to fundamentalists or other types of social conservatives. Statistics prove this. I agree with others who have highlighted the author's rather skewed use of incidents reports -- for the comparison to those for other establishments to be fair, it seems like the data for Elks should be multiplied by at least 7 to get a more comparable number, and perhaps even more given the reduced hours of operation for Elks even when it is open. But the data comparison is just the entry into the more important, and harder, conversation about what is wrong in eastern US black culture. I moved here many years ago from the west, where the social divide between blacks and whites is not as deeply engrained. When I see the self-segregation that eastern American black children often engage in at school, I fear for those kids' chances to advance in life. It's like they are already deciding to not make it, and they are too young to give up so easily. The schools don't seem to do enough to counter the bad parenting that causes this fatalism. It's weird, but it seems like in general the black kids who feel most comfortable with whites around here are the ones who come from places outside the US, like the refugee kids who do not descend from the history of US slavery. Of course, there are lots of black kids and families here who don't seem to have these problems, so it clearly is not an unsolvable situation, at least on the individual and family level. But like others have posted, it requires some smart life choices by those who otherwise are at risk of falling into the despair trap by default, notwithstanding whatever pressures are felt from one's own or the "other" culture.

Chuck Lewis dec'd Just by himself, probably owned at least 3% of downtown when he died. The Wild Wings Cafe at Barracks road had a worse altercation, or just as bad, near the same time period.

Yeah. Did not bother reading all that outsider. too much yapping.

Chuck Lewis I did read. He was a good decent man, as are his children who carry on his tradition. That would be the handing down of businesses from generation to generation you were talking about? But hey, who quibbles about 20 plus million in properties built from the back of a station wagon carrying tomatoes and a wife named Kathy?

Um...You do know that I am a black man?

"Why is there an NAACP? The white version would be call racist or the KKK, but this one is acceptable. Why don't black people feel comfortable in all the other clubs and bars in Cville?"

I've always thought that was one of the weakest rebuttals ever. The same type of person also wonders: "Why can't I say the n-word, but Black people can?." Why do you need or want to say the n-word? The NAACP is a civil rights organization. Not a militant group of angry Blacks that's threatening violence against white people. Lastly. The music scene in Charlottesville is very lame and repetitive. It's the same group of people from the 70s and 80s, with the same sound. There's not a lot of diversity when it comes to music in this town. It can be a little frustrating and uncomfortable to live in an area where there are no other choices than the garbage hipster, blues, and off-key sound of this area.

I'm with realproblem. And to HollowBoy the Haven is not a club.

Speaking for Miller's... We have always welcomed a strong and frequent police prescense at our establishment, having their help with all the minor offenses has kept all the major offenses from happening. Our staff has the best training and handling of any and all mischievous behavior and have never needed to have bouncers or metal detectors.
With much dileberation between ourselves, security companies and authorities, we had decided to remodel our pool hall into a sports bar, instead of a questioning thing escalating into a horrible thing.
Most of, if not all of, our police related incidents were to have people escorted out of the establishment because they believed that it was not their time to be "cut off" (not served anymore alcohol). We have been and always will be the most responsible when it comes to our guests and staff.

I've always thought that was one of the weakest rebuttals ever. The same type of person also wonders: "Why can't I say the n-word, but Black people can?." Why do you need or want to say the n-word?

I actually don't think that at all. Unfortunately more times than not this "civil rights organization" only shows up when there is a press conference and then puts forth phony figures such as Al Sharpton as a representative.

Sometimes you want to say the n word so that people who are fitting the stereotypical definition of the n word will know that they are being called out for it and that you disapprove of their behavior. Same as calling a redneck a redneck and a no good m-fer a no good m-fer and a woman a c-word when she is acting liie a c-word.

And when you say "nword" every body says the actual word in their head so just quote it and be done with it.

Restatement for those want things short and simple:

Education before marriage and child bearing = good idea.

Assumption that intolerance shows liberal view = stupid assumption.

Reporter skewed stats to make it look like city unfairly picking on Elks.

Mystery why some blacks in area get caught in trap of self-segregation.

Schools in area not succeeding in countering failed parenting for black children falling in trap.

Black parents and children from other areas (other countries, or outside the US south) more successful at avoiding this trap.

It seems to me that the only thing that went wrong was that Brown didn't drop his weapon when ordered to by the police. If I was being jumped by a group of men 30 years my junior and I had a gun, I would certainly use it to defend myself.

"I actually don't think that at all. Unfortunately more times than not this "civil rights organization" only shows up when there is a press conference and then puts forth phony figures such as Al Sharpton as a representative."

That's old bro. And it's another weak argument. If not the weakest. When's the last time you've seen Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson front and center? I know conservative individuals love to try to use that, but it hasn't been valid for a loooongggg time. It's time to let go of that weak counterpoint.

That's old bro. And it's another weak argument. If not the weakest. When's the last time you've seen Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson front and center? I know conservative individuals love to try to use that, but it hasn't been valid for a loooongggg time. It's time to let go of that weak counterpoint.

You know what is really old "bro"....that statement. Even older is when anyone disagrees about something they call someone a liberal or a conservative or democrat/republican/tea party. As if there is a perfect definition of all of those. A lot more progress would be made in society if everyone didn't have to be labeled one of those. Personally I can't stand politics, I prefer people who actually get things done and not just talk about it (or rather say what people want to hear).

@, meanwhile...”.Assumption that intolerance shows liberal view = stupid assumption."
That statement is a stupid assumption. Liberals base their arguments on emotion, not facts.
i.e.: man made global warming, a woman’s right to murder her offspring, throwing more money at the war on poverty, yadayadayada...and when they do not have a valid argument, the official liberal fall back position is character assassination...i.e.: you are a racist, homophobe, hate monger, uncaring, old white man….yadayadayada,.

Sorry...that last post is directed at "outsider"

@WhoaNelly: Whoa Nelly!

Wow, Whoa Nelly, you sure must have a hard time getting along with others. I'm probably just barely left of center on most issues, while right of center on several, but I'm able to to have converstaions regarding all of the issues you mention (atmospheric chemistry, supreme court jurisprudence on the "right" to privacy, and wealth disparity) with liberals and conservatives with more extreme views than my own, with none of us getting "emotional" at all. The fact is, there are lots of issues where the facts don't always match up with one perspective, and adults need to be able to discuss them without getting emotionally distracted from their ability to reason. Of course, the first sign of someone getting carried away with their emotions, and thus forfeiting any claim of rationality, is when they make inaccurate generalizations about others or resort to group labels, unsubstantiated claims, and finger pointing. I don't know you, but your post suggests you like to use those pathetic ploys a lot. My advice is that you should try harder to think and articluate an actual argument -- regarding some issues, after all, conservatives do have a more persuasive position, if they are able to explain it without too much mouth-froth getting lauched into the listener's eyes.

@outsider...thank you for confirming my assumptions.

@Whoa: You just confirmed outsider's analysis.

I'm guessing by the way you present yourself that you don't have a stakeholder position in any decision beyond "Salisbury steak or corn dogs for dinner tonight?"

@WhoaNelly, Dolemite is right. Outsider just buried your completely ridiculous statement above.