Club’s efforts flawed

Businesses operating in residential areas have an obligation to be committed to the well-being of their neighbors, while also accommodating their patrons.

If there were any doubts that a Sixth Avenue business – the scene of a fatal shooting Thursday night – was doing enough in that regard, those doubts should have been confirmed at the moment the shots rang out.

Clearly, the Choices Cigar Lounge and Night Club as well as the entertainment enterprises that preceded it at that location have not been good neighbors. Altoona Police Department dockets contain plenty of evidence to confirm that, and the Oct. 31 incident was the top rung of a “ladder” of trouble that for some time had seemed destined to eventually claim a life.

Fortunately, last week’s incident didn’t claim more than one; the potential was there.

Jeffrey Keller, who has managed the Choices night spot for the past 2 months, told a Mirror reporter in the hours following the fatal shooting that he has been trying to change the “bad persona” that the club has had. He said he is well aware of how upset neighbors have been about the goings-on at that location in recent years – problems that have included a stabbing, fights, drug use, not to mention what some residents lament has recently become virtually all-night noise.

Now, residents say, because Choices is a bottle club not under the scrutiny of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the “party” doesn’t ever seem to stop.

“When 2 o’clock comes, all those other bars [operating under state liquor board rules] close, and they [patrons] come here, and it’s packed,” said Woodrow Allen, who lives near Choices.

Keller might have been trying to improve Choices’ image prior to Thursday, but efforts he might have put forth have fallen far short of minimum consideration for the neighborhood. Remaining open well beyond 2 a.m., allowing loud noise and music – and rowdy and sometimes unlawful behavior – to disrupt the neighborhood is the first justification for criticism.

Choices has demonstrated abject disregard for nearby residents. And, anytime police have had to respond to incidents at or around the business, their safety has been jeopardized.

As for Thursday night, when what began with words turned deadly, Keller said he had handled security rather than have a bouncer on duty, because Thursday is a slow time for the business. He said he personally patted down each person who entered, to ensure no weapons were brought into the establishment. However, that security effort proved to be fatally flawed.

It’s true that Choices isn’t the neighborhood’s only problem, but Choices and its predecessors have harmed it and tarnished the city’s reputation.

Referring to Choices, Woodrow Allen’s wife, Beth, said, “If you want something like that, go do your dirty stuff out in the boonies.”

However, even the “boonies” don’t deserve a bad neighbor.

If Choices, or some future version of it, wants to continue, it needs to rework current business objectives, be more cautious to ensure customers’ safety, and exercise greater respect for people living nearby.

Thursday confirmed failure on all three fronts.