st. Paul’s last strip club closes amid violence and fierce neighborhood opposition

The Lamplighter Lounge, St. Paul’s last strip club, which faced fierce neighborhood opposition after hundreds of police calls in recent years and the killing of a young woman in the parking lot, has closed.

The property management company that leases space to the club in a strip mall at the corner of Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue confirmed the closure on Tuesday via e-mail but did not comment further. st. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections has also been notified that the Lamplighter would be canceling its licenses, said St. Paul spokeswoman Suzanne Donovan.

Neighbors in the North End noticed the club’s signs had been taken down.

City Council President Amy Brendmoen said “rigid new operational mandates” to be imposed on the bar by the city may have contributed to its closure.

Donovan said city staff had recommended a host of conditions be placed on the club’s licenses, including enhanced security indoors, mandatory video surveillance in the parking lot and a 1 am closing time.

“It is a big day in the neighborhood as we have just received confirmation that the Lamplighter is now permanently closed,” said Rice-Larpenteur Alliance Executive Director Kim O’Brien, in an e-mail to her board. “I believe this to be a great outcome and opportunity for a new beginning for the neighborhood that has suffered so much from the violence, negativity and pain that the business brought with it.”

The Lamplighter’s owner could not be reached for comment.

The club, where naked women danced behind glass, faced intense scrutiny after college student and makeup artist Nia Black, 23, was shot and shot in the parking lot in June 2020. Black’s family, led by her mother, LaTanya Black, forces with community leaders to demand more accountability for the violence and mayhem occurring outside the club.

“The Lamplighter bar has been a magnet for violence and illegal behavior in the North End for far too long,” said Brendmoen, whose ward includes the North End. “The releaseless pressure by the Rice-Larpenteur Alliance along with passionate community activism and rigid new operational mandates from the city proved insurmountable for this nuisance bar.”

Turning up the pressure

O’Brien, who oversees the alliance — a group of local leaders and community members working to improve the intersection where St. Paul, Roseville and Maplewood meet — said she didn’t know “any single cause for the closure” but credits community members, Black’s family and the help of local leaders including Brendmoen for turning up the pressure on the club owner.

After her daughter’s death, Black founded Mothers Against Community Gun Violence and led “peace walks” in the neighborhood and in Minneapolis. She repeatedly called city officials demanding action against the club saying she was appalled to learn that the man who killed her daughter had shot another person in that same parking lot years earlier.

“I just felt like Nia’s spirit kept pushing me to make a difference,” Black said. “I had to be my daughter’s voice. Someone took her voice.”

“Justice was served for her in the community,” she said upon learning of the Lamplighter’s closure. “This is going to be an everlasting change for this community.”

Brawls and gunfire

In March 2021, Brendmoen held a public hearing where nearly three dozen people including Black’s family testified to the negative impact the business had on the community. Police visited the club 729 times between 2018 and March 2021 for a host of disturbances including assaults, brawls and gunfire.

The St. Paul City Council ordered a formal investigation into the Lamplighter Lounge at that time with the intent of penalizing the business.

O’Brien said the proposed strict license conditions on the business may have been the “final blow.”

“I am thrilled that the Lamplighter at Rice and Larpenteur has finally closed,” Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo said in a written statement. “It’s no coincidence that St. Paul’s last strip club was located in a neighborhood that has been underinvested and ignored for years, and I am proud that the investment and attention we have put into this area has helped clean up a spot that has hurt many people.”

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