BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison City Council is slated to hear an update on a shooting that took place early Sunday morning in the heart of downtown Fort Madison.
Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff is scheduled to give an update on the investigation, and business owners could make an appearance during the public comment time at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting.
At a very short meeting held last Wednesday at the Fox Theater attended by about 40 people including owners of businesses in the downtown area, Rohloff, City Manager David Varley, city council members Rebecca Bowker and Rusty Andrews, a statement was read and the meeting was adjourned.
Business owners were asked to sign a petition asking for “aggressive action” against operations being conducted by a group of three men that own and operate Jus’ Try It.
The owners of Jus’ Try It – Dillen Eaves, Jon Eid and TJ Jones were present at the meeting and said they were just looking for a fair shake from the area owners.
Owners have been upset with the business since it opened with noise complaints and allegations of illegal alcohol consumption.
A confrontation that happened after a customer was escorted from an event on Saturday night, escalated into shots being fired damaging windows at area businesses and apartments.
Dana Bushong’s Jewelry and Elliott Test Kitchen both had bullet holes in their windows as did Jus’ Try it, all in the 800 block of Avenue G. Other unconfirmed damage occurred to upper level apartment building glass.
The incident remains under investigation by Fort Madison Police with one arrest and others anticipated.
The business was established as a center for kids, teens and adults to come in and socialize, game, and listen to music. Cover charges are usually in place and Eaves said never have teens or youth, and adults been combined at any event. They’ve also held adult events that run to 2 a.m.
He also said staff uses a wand on everyone that comes into the adult events to make sure no weapons are brought onto the property.
On Saturday night, Jones said he had to escort out one person who is alleged to have been involved in the shooting incident.
“As soon as we saw there was some trouble, he was asked to leave immediately,” Jones said.
Eaves said they can’t control what’s happening outside their business anymore than any other establishment in Fort Madison.
“I’m not sticking up for the guy that did this. In no way shape or form is this acceptable, “Eaves said. “We took every precaution we could to make sure that something like this wouldn’t happen at our business. But we can’t control what happens when they leave,” Eaves said.
10th Street Station owner Dave Taylor said the business owners need to have some kind of protection from property damage associated with activities at the business.
“I’ve never been in a community that doesn’t have policies in place. So we’ll pull it together and we’ll help. The intent and idea is good there, and if you want to have events like this – that’s great and wonderful. You just have to have a permit process in place,” he said.
Taylor said there should also be some kind of insurance policy in place to protect businesses from this type of incident.
A petition was presented to those in attendance to sign on their way out of the five minute meeting claiming that patrons coming to events at Jus’ Try It, “engage in unregulated consumption of alcohol without liability for the business.”
“Our investment in the business district depends on our patrons and their children feeling safe in their surroundings. For this reason, and many more, we call on local leaders to take aggressive action to eliminate this problem by whatever means necessary,” the petition read.
Eaves said the ownership was fined $400 by the Lee County Health Department for selling a $5 cup to adults at one of the events where alcohol was given away at no charge.
“There was some gray area there, but we didn’t dispute it and paid the fine. We didn’t sell alcohol. We gave it away.” Eaves said.
Jones said they may consider opening the business earlier to allow more people to come in and see what’s happening and what they are trying to do.
“Our intention I thought was more clear than it was. Over a period of time it was getting skimmed over and people were picking and choosing what they thought it would be, rather than what it was,” Eaves said.
The venue has a pool table and big screen for gaming in the back portion. They also have a service counter where snacks and pizza’s are sold and seating. Eaves said at no point has alcohol been on site when youth or teens were on the premises.
He also said the business has hosted 12 to 15 adult events already, but the public only hears about the three where there were some issues.
“You only hear about the bad ones because they don’t want us to do that here. Their reason is the crowd it draws, and that crowd isn’t from Fort Madison,” Eaves said.
Jones said that’s what’s really causing the issues.
“Fort Madison is just not used to that to be blunt,” he said.
In other action, the City Council will consider:
• an agreement with HR Green for design services for a 10-foot bridge for the Great River Health System-Fort Madison Community Hospital Community Foundation Trail.
• accept a quote from Steffensmeier Welding & Mfg of Pilot Grove in the amount of $86,156 for a pedestrian bridge on the trail.
• a resolution setting a price schedule for the sale of City-owned property.