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534 Club License Again in Question

After surviving its first battle with Virginia Commonwealth University, controversial hip-hop hotspot the 534 Club is in danger of losing its liquor license — again.

The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has decided there is enough evidence to revoke the liquor license of the 534 Club on North Harrison Street. VCU has petitioned the ABC to have the club shut down.

In mid-February, an ABC hearing officer dismissed charges that the club had become a meeting place for users of narcotics and illegal drug dealing. A month later, the ABC board decided to reinstate the charges. An appeal hearing was scheduled for May 17, but a final decision by the ABC board wasn't expected until later.The 534 Club has a contentious relationship with VCU. University officials say the club, which sits amid VCU's academic campus, has become a dangerous place known for violence that regularly spills into the streets on weekends. In August, VCU filed a litany of complaints against the club.

In reviewing the matter, ABC Administrative Hearing Officer Sara M. Gilliam dismissed five of the six charges because there wasn't enough evidence to establish that the outside disturbances were connected to the club.

The ABC board apparently disagrees with Gilliam. Brent A. Jackson, a lawyer for club owner Nat Dance, says he hasn't received a legal explanation from the ABC board as to why the charges were reinstated.

Dance says he wasn't surprised that the hearing officer's ruling was overturned. He says VCU has been trying to push him out because it would like to purchase and eventually control his property.

"I just think it's beyond political — it's not even right or wrong anymore," says Dance. "The law just keeps changing." — Scott Bass

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