Mongo Loses Round Two 

Controversial Club Denied Beer Permit.

On Wednesday, October 17th, Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges lost Round Two in his battle to defend The Castle, his controversial nightclub. The Memphis Alcohol Commission indefinitely revoked Hodges’ beer license for the Midtown club, located in Ashlar Hall at 1397 Central Avenue. The license revocation will have not have an immediate effect on the nightclub as it is already temporarily enjoined from having any alcohol on the premises. The injunction, imposed last week by Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, will be in effect until November 20th, when a full Criminal Court hearing on public nuisance charges will occur. The Castle has been the focus of negative attention due to allegations of underage drinking, public nudity, and patrons disrupting the neighborhood. A smattering of the most out-spoken of The Castle’s opponents were on hand for the Alcohol Commission hearing, as was the club’s colorful front man, Prince Mongo. Outfitted in his now standard uniform of a long gray wig, bug-eye sunglasses, and a military-style frock coat that hangs just over his bare knees and feet, Mongo sat quietly in the city council chambers, where the hearing was held, until his case was called. The outspoken restaurateur, who claims to hail from the planet Zambodia, stood behind his attorneys, Leslie Ballin and Mike Pleasants, and did not respond for several minutes after the board first addressed him, eventually blaming his delayed response on having to “contact my spiritual beings.” When asked, Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges insisted for the record that his name was simply ”Prince Mongo” and denied that he operated a dance club, preferring to describe his guests movements as “exercising.” (The Castle does not possess the requisite dance permit.) “We do not allow anyone to dance,” said Mongo, who claimed that a sign near the DJ Booth says, “Atonement Only -- No Dancing.” “They can do exercises, but we do not call it dancing.” Prince Mongo has long claimed that the various bars and clubs he has operated have been religious centers of atonement, rather than night spots. “When they [patrons] cleanse their bodies and souls to rid themselves of demons they do exercises to release the demons,” said Mongo. “Sometimes we have music, sometimes we don’t.” At that point, Prince Mongo himself began to dance an improvised jig in front of the Alcohol Board. After several more questions from the board about the nature of Mongo’s religious activities, the Prince continued to dance and began barking and howling, loud enough for the staccato yelps to echo off the chamber walls. An unidentified board member interrupted Mongo’s outburst to ask, “Are we to understand that what is recognized as a dance floor downstairs is actually a tabernacle?” To which Mongo simply responded, “Amen.” Moments later Prince Mongo excused himself from the hearing and left the room, dancing down the aisles, inviting gallery members to his “church,” and greeting various spectators with, “Hi, Spirit.” After Prince Mongo’s departure, the board heard testimony from a young man who claims his girlfriend passed out and stopped breathing after ingesting a drink that had been spiked with GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate), which is often used as a date rape drug. The young man testified that several times he and his friends asked security guards at The Castle to call an ambulance and that the guards refused to do so for 30 minutes, with one guard eventually complying. After hearing this testimony, the board decided that it had enough information to render a decision and all but one member voted to revoke The Castle’s beer license. Ballin and Pleasants say that they will appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. However, there is no need to do so immediately because Judge Craft’s injunction prohibits Mongo from having any alcohol on the premises until after the nuisance hearing. In the meantime, neighbors of The Castle say that they enjoyed last weekend, the first quiet weekend they say they’ve had in two years, and plan to enjoy the solitude for the rest of the month. (You can write Rebekah Gleaves at gleaves@memphisflyer.com)

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