Police trying to stop takeover of troubled Seattle club

Police trying to stop takeover of troubled Seattle club
Police have been called to Fusion Ultra Lounge in the University District more than 30 times in the past year for everything from traffic-stopping, 50-person brawls to shootings.

SEATTLE -- In 2012, the co-owner of Club El Reventon in Georgetown sold his share of the club to his partner for only $1 weeks before the club was declared a chronic public nuisance for ongoing brawls, gang conflicts and sexual assaults and then sued by its landlord for nearly $19,000 in unpaid rent, taxes and utilities, according to the Seattle Police Department.

That same co-owner moved on to own and manage Citrus in South Lake Union, which was just itself declared a chronic public nuisance for ongoing brawls and shootings and a lack of cooperation with police.

Now, Daniel Yarbrough is attempting to take over ownership of the University District's Fusion Ultra Lounge, where he has also spent time as a manager, a tenure the Seattle Police Department states has been plagued with the same problems as Club El Reventon and Citrus before it.

In response, the Seattle Police Department has sent two letters to the Washington State Liquor Control Board asking the Board not to grant a new liquor license to Yarbrough.

“Yarbrough’s current management of Fusion and tumultuous history in nightclub ownership raises significant concerns for the City of Seattle,” Assistant Chief Michael Sanford writes in a March 4 letter. "As such, the City of Seattle does not believe that Yarbrough is fit to possess, hold, control o manage a liquor license.”

According to police, officers have been called to Fusion, located at Northeast 45th Street and Eighth Avenue Northeast more than 30 times in the past year for events ranging from traffic-stopping, 50-person brawls, to shooting, to security staff pulling a gun on a drunk patron.

In a Feb. 28 letter to the Liquor Control Board, Community Police Team Officer Loren Street writes things at Fusion are so bad two officers usually spend most of the Friday and Saturday night shift outside the club. And, backup officers are still often called to deal with unruly crowds, Street writes.

Sanford agrees in his letter to the Board.

“Due to its high call volume and potential for danger, Seattle Police has mandated that four officers and a sergeant monitor Fusion every Friday and Saturday night," he writes. "Additionally, all patrol officers have been instructed to supplement police efforts at closing time. Despite this, issues at the club persist.”

In addition to being a drain on police resources, one of the biggest concerns laid out in the letters from Sanford and Street is the seeming lack of desire from Yarbrough and his staff to work with police and the community to fix the problems.

According to Sanford's letter, before being granted a liquor license for Club El Reventon Yarbrough told the Liquor Control Board his goal was to provide a safe, controllable business and would be open to input from the community. Less than a year later, the club was declared a chronic public nuisance.

Street tells the Board he has established a good report with owners and staff at businesses throughout the University District during his time with the Community Police Team. The exception is Yarbrough and Fusion Ultra Lounge.

In his letter, Street writes Fusion's owners, manager and staff all have a clear disinterest in forming a relationship with police despite meetings and frequent 911 calls.

"This attitude, coupled with an increase in violence and lack of cooperation with police, has made Fusion a dangerous venue," Street writes.

Sanford points to two incidents to illustrate that point.

According to his letter, instead of waiting to speak with police following a report of shots fired outside the club, Fusion staff closed up and left before officers could talk to them. In addition, security staff was unable to provide details to police following a 30-person brawl inside the club, Sanford writes in his letter.

In his application for a new liquor license, Yarbrough plans to change Fusion's name to Library Sports Grill. Despite the name change, police believe it will continue on as a night club.

“There is little proof that Library Sports Grill will be different from Fusion in anyway but name," Sanford writes to the Board.

Street closes his letter stating his belief that if Yarbrough is allowed to take over ownership of Fusion, the situation at the club will only worsen.

The Liquor Control Board is currently reviewing the city's objections to Yarbrough's application.

Regardless, it's possible Fusion Ultra Lounge could soon join Citrus and Club El Reventon in Yarbrough's history of chronic public nuisances, according to police.