City council revokes Norfolk club’s entertainment privileges

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A nightclub in downtown Norfolk will no longer be allowed to provide entertainment or sell alcohol, after the city council voted Tuesday to revoke their “special exception” permit.

The Palace, located on Plume Street, will still be able to operate as a restaurant. The owner, Kenny Bullock, says he intends to keep his business open for lunch. He also plans on filing a suit against the City of Norfolk in hopes of saving the nightclub operation.

In 2012, the city council granted the “special exception” to The Palace to operate an entertainment venue.

Cynthia Hall, deputy city attorney, said the recommendation to revoke The Palace’s privileges centered around two issues: public safety concerns and delinquent taxes.

Hall says there’s been a stabbing inside the business, sex observed by the fire marshal, illegal use of fireworks and a shooting outside near the entrance.

Bullock says his business has never received any charges or summons from the Norfolk Police Department or any alcohol, noise or health violations.

“They have tried to tie a shooting some years ago that happened on Interstate 264 to this establishment, because supposedly people who were involved in that left here,” said Kevin Martingayle, an attorney representing The Palace. “We don’t blame banks when they get robbed.”

Hall also says The Palace has about $185,000 in unpaid taxes, most of which she says stems from the business under-reporting their food and beverage earnings. She says the business acted as “a front to hide large influxes of cash.”

Bullock denies any wrongdoing. He says he’s in the midst of an appeal after the Commissioner of the Revenue performed an audit. Martingayle says Bullock is fully prepared to pay any back taxes he rightfully owes.

Martingayle says this is the first time the City of Norfolk revoked a “special exception” permit since 2010. He argues The Palace is being targeted because Bullock is African-American and his business is located across the street from The Main, an upscale hotel getting ready to open its doors next month.

“That sends a terrible message,” said Martingayle. “It is absolutely against all the kind of progress I thought we were making. It’s just awful … Every person who has a business in the city of Norfolk take heed, you are at risk, because if the city council can do this to Kenny Bullock and The Palace, you can be next. Everybody should be nervous.”

Councilman Paul Riddick, who wanted to give The Palace and Bullock another chance, said before the vote “none of the council is racist.”

Riddick and Angelia Williams Graves were the only two members to vote against the revocation.

Andria McClellan, who previously served on the planning commission and voted in favor of the revocation, said her decision had nothing to do with race and everything to do with public safety.

“We should not have a “special exception” process if we are not willing to revoke them,” said McClellan. “I think if there are other problem restaurants or bars on Granby then we need to look at those, too. We need to look at them throughout the city.”

Bullock says this is far from over: “I’m not going anywhere.”