Club 106 owner found in contempt

STEUBENVILLE — Club 106 owner Derek Smith was found in contempt Tuesday for continuing to operate his controversial after-hours club despite a court order six months ago declaring the violence-plagued bar a public nuisance and ordering it closed.

Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese had ordered the club, located at 601-603 South St., closed in November after finding Smith had sold alcohol without a license and issued a permanent injunction suspending all Club 106 operations until Aug. 19 — the one-year anniversary of the preliminary injunction hearing. The judge also ordered the sale of any property associated with the club’s operation at auction, with the proceeds to be applied to court costs and attorney fees.

Bruzzese also had ordered the club — located on the first floor of the building — padlocked, stipulating that it “shall not be leased, sold or occupied for a period of one year.” At the time, he’d said Smith could “access and occupy” the upper level if he could produce a certificate of occupancy — and until he can, “the defendant shall not have access to the same.”

Bruzzese “orally clarified” that order in November, barring Smith from entering the first floor after learning an argument erupted when city officials went to the club to change the locks.

But in March, Steubenville City Attorney Costa Mastros moved for contempt, telling Bruzzese city cameras had started picking up images of people going into and out of the building on Dec. 4. He said two days later city employees attempted to enter Club 106’s main entrance “and found (it) padlocked from the inside.” In his motion Mastros said Smith admitted he’d gone in the club to padlock the door, but reported that with Bruzzese’s permission, city employees removed the lock and then proceeded to inventory the club’s contents for the sale.

Mastros filed the motion for contempt in mid-March, just days after City Police discovered that the main door had been barricaded, this time with plywood. He called that a flagrant violation done “without any regard for this court’s order.”

In his motion, Mastros and Assistant Law Director Bernie Battistel alleged that items known to have been in the club — specifically, the DJ turntables and two computers — had “magically disappeared” from the premises, but in Tuesday’s ruling Bruzzese said the city “had no evidence to offer with respect to when the items left” the property and rejected that claim.

City officials also suggested Smith had simply “moved the nuisance upstairs,” even though he didn’t have the required occupancy permit, arguing that he “let it be known that he is back, open for business” and reported an incident days before the contempt motion was filed involving someone from the Pittsburgh area who was stopped outside the building and told police he was “just trying to get to the club.” Police said the suspect, who fled on foot, had a loaded gun in his car.

In Tuesday’s ruling Bruzzese said the city “presented substantial video evidence showing customers entering and leaving from the side entrance.”

With the ruling, Bruzzese authorized the city to close the building “for the duration of the Order of Abatement, by whatever means necessary to prevent entry to any part of the building by any person for any purpose.” Smith was given 24 hours “to secure whatever needed to be secured” and authorized police to search the building prior to padlocking it to make sure no one was left inside.

The city has long considered the club a problem property, citing numerous fights and shootings at or near it. The 2023 nuisance complaint was filed after a confidential informant was able to purchase alcohol at the club on three occasions last year. Mastros also produced a mound of police reports detailing shots fired, assaults and other offenses at the club, including video of a 2023 brawl in which a man was kicked and beaten with bar stools while he laid on the floor using his arms to shield his head from the assault.

Smith represented himself during Monday’s contempt hearing, just as he did in November, when he argued he did his best to break up fights, shared video from inside the club with police “to facilitate prosecution of crimes that occurred in his establishment” and donates generously to community causes, including helping a family that otherwise was without the means to pay for a funeral and giving people jobs when no one else would.


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