Former business partners of Power Ultra Lounge owner allege shady business practices
LITTLE ROCK (KATV) —
A father and son who ran a Little Rock restaurant connected to the nightclub where 28 people were injured in a July 1st shooting say they cut ties with the owner over shady business practices.
Marshall Smith and Bill Smith are well-known father and son restaurateurs in Central Arkansas and were brought on in 2014 to run Lulav when Herman Lewis purchased the restaurant from its previous owner.
They cut ties with Lulav and Power Ultra Lounge owner Herman Lewis when they noticed the club attached to the restaurant began to spiral out of control.
"I never saw any guns or anything like that, but I did see a lot of marijuana smoke up there and just some shady stuff. I tried to stay away from up there as much as possible because it didn't really feel like a safe environment for myself,” said Bill Smith.
Smith says the restaurant was also affected by what they say were Lewis' shady business practices.
"We owe this company money so we can't really do business with them or they don't want to do business with them anymore. It's cash only,” Marshall Smith said.
The Smiths also say before Lewis got a liquor license for the business, he owned another club nearby and was using that liquor license to obtain liquor, then would carry the liquor from his other club into Lulav and Power Ultra Lounge. They say everything was done in cash, with no records kept of alcohol sales or even taxes.
"He's permitted to be a restaurant and I think that's one reason they brought us in is it gave the appearance of being a restaurant,” Bill Smith said.
They say it wasn't long until the lounge's noise and crime problems began interfering with the restaurant.
The Smiths say they witnessed the club become a virtual free-for-all with no rules.
"There was never any carding going on. If you wanted to get in, you got in,” Marshall Smith said.
When they cut ties with Lewis in 2015, they went to the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to report all of the violations they had been witnessing.
"We felt it was good to launch a complaint and get on record in case something did come around. We didn't expect them take the permit away. We didn't expect that. We did want something on record of what we saw and we complained about it at that time,” Bill Smith said.
"They said, 'Well, we're going to give him another chance, he's assured he's going to straighten up and do right,'” Marshall Smith said. “And of course, he's been cited 11 times. He's been cited or had his license suspended,” Bill Smith said.
The Smiths say they don't blame ABC and think that ABC enforcement’s hands were tied because much of what they reported were only things they saw. But they do blame Lewis for the way he operated the club. They say the shooting was only a matter of time.
"I knew it was coming. I knew something like was going to happen. I knew it was coming,” Bill Smith said.
The Smiths sued Lewis after leaving the restaurant. They say when Lewis decided to end the restaurant, he asked them to work for two more weeks, but never paid them.
Currently, they're owed more than $3,000 dollars in a judgement against Lewis but have never gotten their money.
Channel 7 News attempted to speak to Lewis on Monday but he did not answer questions.