DEATH AT THE RED CARPET
Like many towns across the state, St. Cloud is a college town. It has a long reputation for drinking and has bars lined up much like Superior. I used to joke when I went to SCSU that to be “cool” in the town you had to be one of the three B’s: a Bartender, in a Band, or a Bouncer.
The largest bar in St. Cloud, The Red Carpet, is like Gilly's in Urban Cowboy. It has several rooms and levels with something for everyone. About two years ago the bar added on a non-smoking Martini bar and even more room. Imagine Grandma's, The Tap Room, Pizza Luce, Red Lion and all of Superior in one small area. That is St. Cloud, and that might have attributed to a recent graduate being killed by the bouncers.
You might have missed it last month when 28 year old student Justin W. Smiley of St. Cloud Technical College was killed. He was out celebrating the birth of his daughter (2 weeks old) and recent graduation when he ended up on the ground dead in front of the bar with a bouncer sitting on him. Apparently he was separated from some friends and ended up outside of the bar. When he tried to re-enter is apparently when the altercation took place. The bouncer has not been charged, but he no longer works for the nightclub. This is nothing new to a town that is based on drinking, but it might be time to think about how drunk you get the next time you visit St. Cloud.
It was reported that a car has been seen driving around town, spray painted with "Justice for Justin", Justin being the deceased victim. The back window of the car, according to this same person, says "Red Carpet Kills." Before learning the extent of the story I even joked to myself when the bouncers were swearing at me to leave the bar, "You can't drink here or we'll KILL YOU." That was until I began to investigate the story.
The Red Carpet is known for being the largest venue in St. Cloud and usually for having the best entertainment. Some examples I have seen first hand over the years around town are as follows.
1. There have been several occasions where after the bar closed the bouncers would show up at the "Afterbar" dressed in their bright red shirts. On numerous occasions they have pulled out drugs like cocaine and retired to bedrooms to partake in the awful drug. They also boast of the evenings "fights", and how wasted they are. Because I covered bands I saw them at many parties and this was not a one time occurrence. I emailed the owner of the Red Carpet to ask if the employees are allowed to drink on the job or if drug tests are ever administered. They had no comment to all questions. I have read that drugs like cocaine stay in your body for a day of two so drug tests may be pointless anyway?
2. When you walk into the Red Carpet usually there are about 4 to 5 bouncers working the door and they will give each person entering a hard time. They take the whole "power" aspect farther than any other club you might go into. They pride themselves on making people wait to come in. For example every time I enter they check my ID for a minimum of 1 minute. I am 28 and look exactly like my ID, I wouldn't complain except this happens everytime. And then they do it to the person behind me.
3. At closing time is when you want to throw up. They shut off the bar by sections and close you into small areas. So you end up losing who you came with. Then they say, "You can drink, just not here.. SO GET THE F#$K OUT!" They then proceed to yell more and push people out the door.. The clocks are set at bartime so usually the pushing begins at 1:55 am. It's rude and belittling to the customers, but they could care less.
4. On a few occasions I have had friends "Escorted" out of the Carpet. This usually involves several VERY LARGE bouncers grabbing someone and throwing them out front. Then they sit on the person until the police walk over. Where are the police you might ask? Parked in a line out front. I have never seen a police officer in the bar or the entrance.. And I have been to the Carpet at least 100 times.
On the St. Cloud Times web site there is a chatboard for people to voice their opinion about the story. The forum started with condolences, but quickly turned to attacking a local law office who placed a full-page ad. The ad stated that anyone who had been assaulted by barstaff locally should contact the firm for representation. People found the ad in bad taste and pushing the envelope of how a lawyer can solicit clients. You cannot approach the family directly, but the ad was put there for a reason. The law firm denies the allegations and has since changed the ad. They also stated that the deceased man’s fiancé, children, and mother have retained council already. Charges are still not filed.
On that Times chatboard one person made the point that the bar had no problem getting this guy that intoxicated. Why is the bar not responsible for anything? So a bar can get someone so drunk they would die anyway, then kill them. Might want to stay away from the Red Carpet, you don’t want them to kill you? Better to stay in Duluth where LUCKILY there are police officers who work the door. I used to think it was weird to see a cop when I entered a bar, now I know it might save my life.
On a side note this story should not be confused with the death of a bouncer in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. In that case the person who had the altercation with the bouncer shot the bouncer.