Club Empire Owner Calls It Quits

Troubled Ybor City night spot Club Empire has closed. The announcement came Thursday morning as city council members were scheduled to hear about what steps they might be able to take to force the venue to shut its doors.

“On behalf of the Empire Club, I’m here to announce that the club has officially closed its doors after 18 years of business,” John Brewer told council members.

Sharon Jones called the news “wonderful.” Her 20-year-old son Leslie Jones, Jr. was murdered inside Club Empire back on Oct. 2nd.

“There will be nobody else’s son killed in that club. They will not party over no one else’s blood in there,” she told 10 News.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn also released a statement Thursday saying the closing marks “a new day and night in Ybor.”

Three murders have been linked to the club, located at 1902 E. 7th Ave. in the last nine years.

Since the most recent murder, many Ybor businesses and residents have been pressuring the city to take some action and force Club Empire to close.

Eric Schiller, the co-owner of Gaspar’s Grotto, says Empire has been giving the entire Latin Quarter a black eye. Schiller said he was pleased with Thursday’s announcement.

“It’ll be good to have them gone,” he said. “I hate to say that, I’m all for business and commerce… but they were not helping themselves, the community or Ybor City.”

Since the beginning of the year, officials say there have been more than 100 police calls to Club Empire.

Last week club owner Joel Brewer finally broke his silence when he told 10 News the murder of Leslie Jones, Jr. inside his establishment “breaks his heart.”

“I feel terrible for any family that has a loss,” Brewer said.

While Joel Brewer did not respond to requests for additional comment Thursday, John Brewer told city leaders his brother is willing to sell the building.

“I would also propose on behalf of the Empire Club, for the city of Tampa to consider the purchase of the building,” John Brewer told council members.

But at least one person who has been pushing the city to take action says that’s not acceptable.

“This building has too much blood on the floor. The spirits are here, they’re not good spirits, this needs to come down brick by brick,” Michelle Williams said.

Sharon Jones says her next hope is that police find her son’s killer. She also tells 10 News she plans to sue Joel Brewer and take her fight to court.

“I want him to know I’m not done with him because while I closed it, I want everything you got for my grandkids. I want it all. My grandkids need it all,” she said.

10 News