Clubbed to Death

The problem is big, and its name is Stuart Konecky. Bayview residents see him as six feet, four inches of mercenary disregard for the peace and quiet of their comfortable, mostly white neighborhood lying only yards east of his nightclub, the Roxy.

Bayview residents who reside east of Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale complain that Konecky plays the music that brings the kids who drive the cars that shatter the night with the sounds of rap and hip-hop. They're mostly black kids 18 years old and up, who have no respect for people who sleep at night.

Those young people come to party, and Konecky comes to make money, charging them $5, $10, and $20 covers to get in, and enforcing a two-drink minimum. Club patrons arrive by the hundreds on special nights, filling the 30-space parking lot, then depositing their vehicles on strips of grass that front the houses and small apartment complexes in Bayview.

They make a lot of noise after the club closes at 2 a.m., car stereos thumping like artillery. They litter. They might be gang members, they might be druggies, they probably fornicate, residents say. Somebody could get hurt. Residents blame Stuart Konecky for all of that. So do some city commissioners, led by Gloria Katz, who lives in Bayview and represents the district.

The collective reaction of private citizens and politicians, an unusual alliance to solve a mere noise problem, could have a powerful effect on the hours that all bars in Fort Lauderdale do business, and many bar owners are worried. They too have joined the chorus calling for Konecky either to quit the business or to find a new venue.

"Let's let the police go through it like they should and make it rough on [Konecky] so he wants to get out of town," proposes Don Meyer, a club promoter sympathetic to the Bayview residents. "There's a lot of gang people on the weekends. It's a very affluent neighborhood. You're sitting in an [expensive] home with kids, and all of a sudden a car with tinted windows and booming music comes by -- I wouldn't like it either. The club is not concerned about city laws, they're getting a $20 cover. This hurts the rest of the clubs."

Konecky says he's endured patently unfair business and political pressures, especially considering he appears to play by the rules. Konecky doesn't sell alcohol to underage drinkers, he encourages a police presence by hiring off-duty officers to work details at his club, and he's recently brought down the sound levels.

Konecky figures if they can force him out, other bar owners believe they won't face the threat of reduced drinking hours citywide or risk other city government action. Feeling that he has become a scapegoat, Konecky now reacts sharply. If club owners want him out, "let all the people who hold liquor licenses send me $10 a week for ten years," Konecky says. "I'll close the club." In lieu of that, he announces, "If these people don't like the black kids, I'll turn this into a motorcycle club, see how they like a couple of hundred Harleys leaving here on a Saturday night at 2 a.m."

The threat emerges from a small mouth -- the only small thing about Konecky. He packs about 350 pounds onto his frame, which he customarily dresses in a black Tshirt, black trousers, and black shoes, a uniform Konecky says he has worn through 25 years in the club business. Neighbors who don't like his club are now criticizing his appearance -- one lady told a police detail that Konecky looks like "Mafia."

"How could I be Mafia?" he asks rhetorically. He pulls a gold neck chain from his Tshirt, and on the end of it hangs a Jewish Star of David. "I'm not Mafia," he announces, exhibiting the emblem of his religion.

It's early, only 10 p.m., and the doors are opening on another night in Konecky's four-year run as Roxy owner. A visit to the Roxy midweek, when Konecky advertises hip-hop and rap, reveals a well-behaved crowd blanketed in noise -- inside the club. Three bars do brisk business beneath etched glass mirrors, neon, and a 30-screen video system. The staff carefully checks IDs when patrons order drinks. Young black and Hispanic males working as security move in and out of the crowd, encountering little trouble. No car can be found parked illegally on the street behind the club at midnight.

Inside, Konecky says reduced decibels are the new Roxy style, the kinder, gentler Roxy, and it's costing him money -- he's toned down the music and lost business. "I've tried to appease the commissioners, the neighbors, the other club owners, and I should get a thank-you from somebody, at least," he says.

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Roger Williams