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Texas: Nonprofit's Nightclub Faces Closure; AIDS Fund Dries Up After Patrons Barred from Bringing Alcohol

July 31, 2002

It may be the last call for alcohol at a popular after-hours nightclub -- and the AIDS agency that it funds -- following a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raid. Since getting caught in TABC's crosshairs July 20, the AIDS Housing Coalition Houston has stopped allowing patrons to bring their own bottles to Club Nsomnia, a late-night club and dance hall the nonprofit runs out of its Montrose headquarters. The donations the club took at the door have all but dried up, and the coalition doesn't have enough funds to maintain its emergency shelter and food bank for people with HIV/AIDS, said Executive Director Matt Locklin.

Locklin acknowledged that the club is an unusual way to raise funds for a nonprofit, but he maintained that it falls outside state alcoholic beverage laws because it doesn't have a license and is a BYOB. "No one ever told me otherwise," he said, adding that the matter was discussed in open court at a TABC licensing hearing in 1999. TABC's Sgt. Mitchell Dill said the commission plans to file a charge against the club with the Harris County district attorney's office for selling without a permit. Locklin said he plans to file complaints about the raid with TABC and the Houston Police Department.

Last year, the coalition spent about $290,000 to operate the shelter and club and provide clients with financial assistance to rent apartments, Locklin said. It raised $292,000. "We've done everything we can to be legal," Locklin said. "We do counseling on site, distribute information on HIV and AIDS." No other shelter in Harris County serves people living with HIV/AIDS, he said. Locklin plans to keep the shelter open until funds dry up, which he estimates will be by the end of the month. Clients have already started moving out of the duplexes the nonprofit leases. "After 10 years of keeping people off the street," Locklin said, "I'll be out on the street with them."

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Excerpted from:
Houston Chronicle
07.26.02; Janette Rodrigues

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