Is After-Hours Club Operating Legally?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - A man remains on the run at this hour wanted for shooting a bartender in the leg at an eastside club.

Knoxville police were called to the underground, on McCalla Avenue at 4:45 Wednesday morning.

An employee told police a customer was angry for being charged twice at the door.

When the bartender told him to leave, the suspect shot him.

The bartender, identified as 41-year old Willie Thomas, was taken to UT Medical Center for treatment and released.

Police are looking for a black man who's believed to be driving a sky blue four door 1989 or 1990 Buick LeSabre or Century.

Meanwhile, neighbors in the East Knoxville community are speaking out about the after-hours club.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford investigates what the Underground Club is and if it's operating legally.

The board of zoning appeals checked out the underground for us and says it is legally zoned on McCalla Avenue.

You may not notice it right away because Kesha's Market and Deli is in the front and the underground is connected behind it.

"This general area is pretty quiet," Jeremy Donaldson grew up here on McCalla Avenue. "It consists mainly of elderly people and smaller children."

But less than a mile down the road is the Underground Club.

We were unable to contact the owner, and no one is publicly listed as owner of the Underground. Kesha's Market and Deli has its own business and beer license and says it has nothing to do with the connecting club.

"As far as I know it's supposed to be a bar, a lot of drinking going on, music, dancing, you know, usual club scene," Donaldson says.

Donaldson and other neighbors say the after-hours club is typically open until 5:00 a.m., but the hours and days often change. KPD says the sale of alcohol is prohibited in any business after three.

"Just a lot of younger folks and not very good people hang out there," Donaldson says.

Nearby neighbor David Williams says he's never been bothered by the Underground. "They do their thing down on the weekends and during the week and they just have get-togethers and stuff down in there, but they don't bother us up in here or nothing."

But Williams knew something was wrong Wednesday morning. "I heard the police go through this morning. The sirens went through here about four this morning."

Williams says the news of a shooting close to home is unsettling. "It's scary in a way, that somebody might have got shot, might have got hurt, unnecessary or something like that. That's the only thing I worry about."

"In that kind of situation, that kind of environment, it's bound to happen," Donaldson says.

According to City of Knoxville records, the business license for the Underground has not been renewed since March 31st of 2005, but Kesha's Market and Deli, in the same building, has its license.

There are still some unanswered questions, we'll update you as more information becomes available.

If you have any information on the shooting, call the KPD Crime Hotline at 215-7212.

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