Good Hope Street nightclub torn down

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The building that once housed the Taste Lounge has experienced some rough times in its recent history. In the last 10 years, the property at 402 Good Hope St. has been the site of two murders and a near-riot that injured several people.

Now owner Michael Pryor is having the building torn down. Contractors began tearing the structure down on Monday.

Plans for the future of the property are still undetermined, Pryor said. As for his reason in tearing down the building, Pryor said he was "tired of it being there." He didn't elaborate.

Pryor bought the building in 1990 and started a business there called the Taste Restaurant and Lounge. He had purchased the building from J.T. and Lessie Nelson, who had used it as the site of their People's Cafe soul food restaurant for 34 years.

The People's Cafe attracted some famous clientele during those times, such as Duke Ellington and the Harlem Globetrotters. But more importantly, it stood as a safe and friendly gathering place for the black community in Cape Girardeau when there were few cultural opportunities for that group.

"If you wanted to go out in Cape Girardeau during that time and have a good time and didn't want a fight, that's where you went," said Ross Conner, who frequented the cafe when it was still in existence.

On weekends the place was always packed, he said.

When Pryor bought the business he decided to make it a nightclub, and for some time there was no significant violence reported there.

Soon the Taste started to attract larger crowds -- some of them not so friendly -- and loitering and littering became problems in the area.

Then in 1995, a 29-year-old was shot and killed outside the business as he was soliciting patrons for drugs. Other troubles followed, like a near-riot in June 1999 after an altercation between a police officer and a motorist during a traffic stop in front of the club.

In 2001, the city refused to renew the business's liquor license, and Pryor leased the building to Patrick Buck as an after-hours lounge with no alcohol. That venture failed when Buck voluntarily closed the new Taste after the shooting of 25-year-old Anton Miller outside the club on Jan. 1, 2004.

Cape Girardeau police Sgt. Rick Schmidt said he's indifferent to the building being torn down, because it was just a building. The place's bad reputation and troubled past, he said, can't be pinned on anyone in particular other than those who committed the crimes.

"A lot of people who went there never caused problems," Schmidt said. "It's a few that make a bad reputation for a business and an entire neighborhood."

335-6611, extension 182

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