Manitoba

Residents group hopes it's last call for Exchange District club where man was killed

People living in the Exchange District say Citizen Nightclub getting its licence suspended won't solve a bigger problem of an out-of-place venue in a changing neighbourhood

Liquor licence at Citizen Nightclub was suspended indefinitely after Nov. 2 shooting

Citizen Nightclub sits at the corner of Princess Street and Bannatyne Avenue. Jamshaid Wahabi, 23, was shot and killed at the club on Nov. 2. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Homeowners in the Exchange District say suspending the liquor licence of a nightclub in the area that was the scene of a fatal shooting won't solve a long-term problem.

On Nov 2, Jamshaid Wahabi, 23, was shot and killed at Citizen Nightclub. On Nov. 8, the Manitoba Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority suspended the club's licence, saying it was "necessary in the public interest."

But a representative from a residents group says a 500-person nightclub doesn't belong in the growing neighbourhood in the first place.

"It's a big nightclub, it's surrounded on three sides by residents, and there's constant problems. The police service has told us the number of calls here far exceed calls to other bars, and it's a problem," said John Giavedoni, who is the executive director of the Residents of the Exchange district — a group which has 300 members.

John Giavedoni, executive director of the Residents of the Exchange District, says the group has been working for two years with various officials to address concerns about violence from different clubs operating under different names in the same Exchange District spot. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The LGCA says because the club is part of an active police investigation, it will not comment further.

Deborah Zanke says she's lived in the area for 18 years, and says everyone feels safe — except for violent episodes spilling out from the nightclub, which has changed owners and names over the years.

In July 2018, a bouncer at the Citizen Nightclub was charged with stabbing patrons outside the venue.

"We had major concerns ongoing from that time, now we have another death. What is it going to take?" said Zanke, who runs her communications business from her condo above the Peasant Cookery restaurant, next door to Citizen on Bannatyne and King.

Both Zanke and Giavedoni say residents have been working with the LGCA, area city councillor Vivian Santos, police and the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone to come up with solutions.

Deborah Zanke is one of the 300 people who are part of the Residents of the Exchange District group. They say large-capacity nightclubs like Citizen, where a man was fatally shot on Nov. 2, no longer fit with the neighbourhood. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The group says rezoning may be an option, but it also says that regardless of who has owned the club, they believe it has often contravened a section of the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act, which says "a licensee must not allow or permit disorderly persons to be in the licensed premises or in the immediate vicinity outside of the licensed premises."

"We're not against nightclubs, we're against nightclubs that are irresponsible and poor neighbours," said Giavedoni, who says patrons spill out into the streets when the club closes, and there are often fights and belligerent drunks yelling on the street.

"What we see happen is there is an incident and concerns have escalated that LGCA has put restrictions on the licence, ownership will change hands, but ostensibly the club is the same format and doing the same things," Zanke said.

Zanke says she has heard from a young family that is considering moving. They had moved in to the Fairchild Lofts just before the stabbing incident in July of 2018.

"They're contemplating whether they can stay in the neighbourhood any longer, and that is absolutely not what we want to hear," Zanke said.

It is not known when or if Citizen Nightclub will reopen. Management of the club did not reply when asked for comment from CBC News. 

About the Author

Eleanor has more than 15 years of experience in television news as a producer, reporter, anchor and host. She has covered everything from politics to consumer trends but is most driven to find local stories that resonate or have an impact on the community. You can reach her at Eleanor.Coopsammy@cbc.ca Twitter: @ECoopsammy