News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 12, 2013

Council debates danger of acts booked at local spot

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The specter of violence from big, for-profit dance parties re-emerged in the Terre Haute City Council chamber Thursday night.

Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse and Mark Eldred, chief of operations for THPD, spoke against allowing big dances, often featuring out-of-town bands, from happening at Tippecanoe Place, a restaurant and banquet center at 22nd and Tippecanoe streets a few blocks north of Wabash Avenue on the city’s near-east side.

“There’s been known gang members from Indianapolis coming here to town,” Plasse told the council during its Thursday night “sunshine” meeting. A party set for later this month will feature two entertainers wanted for questioning in a homicide and a third was “involved in a shoot-out with police,” he said.

All this comes less than a year after Plasse put forward an ordinance setting up some strict security and other requirements for for-profit dances at places such as The Event Center, a defunct dance venue on east Wabash Avenue. In that case, Plasse said the dances attracted large and potentially dangerous groups of people, often from out of town. That ordinance was withdrawn without a vote but the Event Center soon closed.

Now, police are concerned about big dances, often with hundreds of guests, taking place at Tippecanoe Place. Curt Phillips, the business owner who spoke to the council, said he invested heavily in the business when it opened two years ago, transforming a former American Legion Post with a sketchy reputation into a high-quality restaurant with an attached banquet hall.

“It was a pretty bad place,” Phillips said of the former “Pioneer Post” legion hall. Since he has operated Tippecanoe Place, it has seen no shootings, no stabbings and only one party-related incident in which police were called, he said.

But, the Tippecanoe Place is on property that is, oddly, zoned for residential use, so Phillips is forced to ask the City Council, a nine-member legislative body, to change the zoning classification. In the meantime, he believes incorrect information is being told about his business. For instance, he said, allegations against entertainers performing there later this month are fictional products of the Internet.

Some on the council asked whether they could approve a special zoning that could allow for the restaurant, but not the dance hall, something Phillips said would bust his business.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Weir, executive director of the Vigo County Area Planning Department, which oversees zoning matters, warned the council about using zoning for purposes other than land use. His department, and the Area Plan Commission, favorably recommended allowing Tippecanoe Place receive its commercial zoning.

The council is expected to vote on the matter at its next meeting Thursday night in City Hall.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com