Police, neighbors say bar owner not to blame for assault

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

In the wake of a Sunday-morning fight outside the Phat Cat bar that resulted in a crowd being dispersed by pepper spray and the assault of a police officer, a spokesman said the Cape Girardeau Police Department is not worried about how the venue is being run. Neither are the nightclub's Broadway neighbors.

The fight broke out at 1:11 a.m. Sunday across the street from the Phat Cat nightclub operated by Tamara Zellars Buck at 731 Broadway. In the scuffle, police said patrolman Jeffery Bourbon was shoved by 17-year-old Michael Criddle of 1005 Jefferson St. in Cape Girardeau. Criddle was arrested on charges of assault on a law enforcement officer, interference with lawful detention and resisting arrest by fleeing. All three charges are misdemeanors.

The incident comes a little over three months after 25-year-old Anton Miller was fatally shot in the early hours of New Year's Day outside the Taste, an after-hours club owned by Buck's husband, Patrick. After the killing, some residents called for the city council to close the business.

Patrick Buck helps his wife with the Phat Cat's operation.

Capt. Carl Kinnison of the Cape Girardeau Police Department said it would be unfair to say the incidents are related.

"The Bucks have worked extremely well with us," Kinnison said. "They usually let us know ahead of time when they know there's going to be an extra large crowd."

Tamara Buck said Saturday was one of those nights. Because she knew a patron had been advertising a birthday party, she notified authorities earlier in the night that they were expecting a crowd. In addition, she hired five extra people to work security in the bar that night.

She isn't sure exactly how many people were in the club that evening. Police said they saw more than 200 people in the Dollar General parking lot across the street when they responded to reports of the disturbance. Sgt. Rick Schmidt said pepper spray was used to disperse the crowd. He said officers heard a popping sound they suspected might be a gunshot, but the source of the sound could not be confirmed.

Schmidt doesn't think the bar is responsible. "They have no more disturbances than any other place of that nature. Any time you mix alcohol with people, there's going to be a problem."

Zero tolerance

Tamara Buck said the only things the Taste -- which closed soon after the shooting -- and the Phat Cat have in common is that they were owned by people from the same family, both featured rhythm and blues and hip-hop music and both were operated by owners who have little tolerance for situations with trouble-making potential.

"We don't tolerate fighting in the bar, and those who know us know that," she said. "They know that if they come to cause trouble, they won't be back."

Although the Phat Cat does allow patrons over 18 to enter, proof of being at least 21 and a wristband are required to drink inside.Tamara Buck said she is confident the 17-year-old Criddle did not make it past her bouncers carding at the door.

Owners of surrounding businesses praised the Bucks' efforts to accommodate authorities and neighbors alike.

"We've never had any major problem other than an occasional beer bottle on the sidewalk," said Mike Ford, owner of Ford Entertainment and Productions at 735 Broadway. Shawn Mitchell, co-owner of Shawn's Swap Shop at 727 Broadway, echoed that sentiment. Donna Hendershott, manager of Dollar General, referred questions to the corporate office in Tennessee.

Carl Ketchum's nearby Tatmandu tattoo parlor is open noon to midnight. Ketchum said his work regularly keeps him there until 2 a.m., when the bar next door is clearing out. He was in his shop at the time of the incident.

He said the Bucks hire someone to clean the sidewalks regularly and the Dollar General parking lot after the weekends.

"They've been very good neighbors," Ketchum said.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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