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Provo's Only Dance Club Closes

Provo's Only Dance Club Closes

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Club Omni, Provo's only dance club, has been closed by its owner, who will not say why.

Owner Kenneth Merena said he closed it after the final dance on March 1, and, "It's no longer in operation."

The closure came nine days after fire officials cited the club for locking emergency exit doors.

The club, which does not sell alcohol, had been in business for about nine years, and often was embroiled in controversy.

In 2001, the city passed an ordinance requiring dance halls -- which meant just Club Omni -- to increase security and install surveillance cameras and metal detectors. It also set a 1 a.m. closing time.

Merena also lost a bout with the city in 2000 over his desire to host boxing events.

In 1998, a 17-year-old boy was killed in a gang-related shooting at the club. Four years later, police shut down the club after officers observed people entering the business through the emergency doors.

Despite the club's controversy, Provo's police chief and fire marshal said Merena had worked to keep the establishment safe for patrons.

The closure came as a surprise to police Chief Craig Geslison.

"As far as law enforcement, I think they've tried to be in compliance over the last couple of months," Geslison said. "They made an effort to correct what went on there."

Fire Marshal Jim Guynn said the club did a good job working to stay in compliance with fire codes, and the fire department had never intended to shut down the club when it issued the citations.

"I can't imagine those have anything to do with the closure," Guynn said. "That hasn't been a consideration for us. ... People were never at risk there."

City spokesman Michael Mower said the city regrets when any Provo business shuts down.

The club's closure could help spur the revitalization of the downtown area, said Susan Bradford, executive director of the Downtown Business Alliance of Provo. City officials have been trying to lure more customers in the day, and Club Omni's site is ideal for daytime businesses.

"Hopefully, that will open up that building for retail storefront, which we need downtown," Bradford said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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