Corey Boston of Bluff City’s Up in the Air peels off the decals that made up the Lime Light’s sign on Stone Drive on Monday. Photo by Erica Yoon.
KINGSPORT — The general manager of the Lime Light Lounge said he intends to close the club and vows it will never be used as an urban nightclub again.
“I’m just tired of it. Enough is enough,” said Jimmy Swafford Jr. “I’m just fed up.”
The decision to close Lime Light comes a day after a Kingsport man was shot in the parking lot of the club.
A Kingsport Police Department report states that Hubert Lee Scruggs, 21, of Johnson City, allegedly shot DeShannon Bradley, 20, four times following an argument in the parking lot.
KPD detectives believe the incident was related to a May 27, 2006, shooting at Club 229, which the Swafford family owned prior to opening the Lime Light. Police say Scruggs was wounded and lost a portion of his leg. No charges have been filed in this incident.
Swafford said he and his staff were in the building early Sunday morning when the shooting took place, and when told about the shooting and the police on the scene, he thought his staff was “pulling his chain.”
“There were no problems in the club earlier, no fights. It usually starts in the club, and then it goes outside. It didn’t happen like that,” Swafford said. “We closed out at 5 a.m. and 5:45 cleared the parking lot. Obviously the last two guys out there were talking, and that’s the way it started, then into an argument.
“It went from good to bad in 15 minutes.”
By Monday morning a lease sign had gone up over the front doors of the club, and later in the day the main Lime Light sign had come down.
“We’re putting the building up for lease. It’s not a decision that we were forced to do. It’s a decision from the family, what we need to do,” Swafford said. “We’re getting tired of always having to deal with some violence over the younger generation that’s coming in here and partying.”
Kingsport developer Gary Alexander owns the Lime Light building and property and has a contract for deed with the Swafford family for both. Alexander said the Swaffords are still making the payments on the building and that any leasing of the property would have to be approved by him.
“If the leasing is not unreasonable,” Alexander said, calling Sunday’s shooting “terrible.”
Alexander said when things like Sunday’s shooting take place, it could trigger a default and review of the contract.
“We are looking at it,” he said.
Swafford said some of the requirements on the lessee would be no urban music, rather pop, top 40 or country, and for the business to not be aimed at the younger generation.
“Kingsport needs a good nightlife. They just don’t need this type of nightlife,” Swafford said. “We didn’t want anything to stem from Club 229 to Lime Light. I think it took off that way since we were the previous owners of Club 229. People felt like ‘there’s another club opened by the same owners, so we’ll go there.’”
Until a lessee is found, Swafford said the Lime Light would be used for private functions and rentals, such as for holidays or birthday parties. Swafford said they may shop the property around to an established restaurant if no lessee is found. Because of how the building is laid out and the features it includes (full kitchen, sound system, large parking lot), Swafford said he does not think it will be hard to lease out.
“It’ll be a perfect chance for someone to come in that wants to give a good shot at running a restaurant/nightlife type of bar,” he said.
Swafford said he first thought about closing Lime Light about three months ago, and now he’s working to turn over a new leaf with his life.
“This is probably what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I planned to open other restaurants in other parts of the Southeast and we used (Lime Light) to try and get other things going,” Swafford said. “People projected me out because of my past, the trouble I’ve been in. But I’ve turned over a new leaf. People have me projected to be something I’m not.”
To make Lime Light safer, Swafford installed a metal detector, security cameras throughout the interior of the building, and had security people on hand to handle any situations that arose inside. But like with the May 2006 shooting, Sunday’s incident took place outside the club.
“Our problem was with Club 229 and the people stemming from it,” Swafford said. “It’s just one thing after another with these people, and I’m just fed up. This is not right, not how it’s supposed to be run.”
Kingsport Police Chief Gale Osborne said things have to change at the Lime Light.
“No question about it, because we have to keep a safe community. Whatever method we can do, to do that, I’m for it,” Osborne said, noting there has been a lot criminal activity at the Lime Light, including drugs, fights, shots fired and now a shooting. “The way it’s running right now, yes I do (think Lime Light should close). Without question. No doubt there’s clubs that are run in a good way and people enjoy themselves.
“When people are afraid to enter a club or they have active shootings in a parking lot or fights, it’s just no good. I think they realize that as well.”