Senses nightclub in environmental court, fights to reopen

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It was a busy Monday in environmental court, and an East Memphis night club is at the center of the controversy.

Senses Nightclub, off Poplar, closed several years ago but is currently in the process of trying to reopen with a new owner.

However, there have been several hiccups in the process.

County inspectors say there are zoning issues, the building needs a special use permit and some the residents who live nearby are speaking out against it.

Attorney Lanier Fogg, representing Senses, presented the case to Judge Larry Potter for why the club should be open while they wait to go to trial on several citations.

Francisco DaSilva testified he purchased Senses in 2015 after it was shuttered.

Originally from Brazil, he said he operated a nightclub in Rio De Janiero and saw a need in Memphis. His hope is to make Senses a “high-end” nightclub. After purchasing the property for more than $1 million, he poured more than $600,000 into the place.

DaSilva claims he’s jumped through every hoop to meet city and county expectations — but continues to be told his business is not meeting all the permit and zoning requirements.

He says he keeps hitting a brick wall.

"I’m not welcome to come to the code enforcement and what am I supposed to do?” explained Francisco DaSilva.

Senses actually did have a soft opening a few weeks ago, but further operating came to an end.

However, people living nearby have their own concerns.

Several years ago when Senses was under different ownership, neighbors complained about the traffic and raucous behavior of patrons.

"I don't want my neighborhood turned into the utter crap, hell that it went through before," said Robin Spielberger.

Spielberger has a family home near the nightclub. She says she’s still haunted with what she experienced when the club was open a few years ago.

"We had cars parked up and down the street. We had people sitting in my front yard drinking. If I was lucky it was just cigarette packs and beer bottles I would find the next morning instead of my car window being broken into, my house being broken into, used condoms everywhere. It was just disgusting. And that was just the part I got to find. The part I got to experience was every single Thursday, Friday Saturday from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., loudspeakers, bumping," she said.

The club promises they won’t let people in if they don’t park in their lot and follow a dress code, and they say they will have 15 security officers spread throughout the area.

However, Spielberger is skeptical it will be that easy to keep control of clientele.

After several hours of hearing witness testimony Potter ultimately decided he would need time to look over documents to decide if the club should reopen.

Senses is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday afternoon.