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Decline of the Emperor

A downtown nightclub closes its doors again

Nathan Paluck

July 21, 2009

The Emperor at the Linden's bass was booming, and its clientele left rowdy, revving and honking. Upstairs, residents of the Linden condominiums said they couldn't sleep. That's the reasoning behind the Hartford Superior Court's July 6 decision to have the posh restaurant and lounge close its doors at 11 p.m. The club has been closed since July 8.

"We're basically shut down," says owner Shawn Eddy about the effect of the court's ruling. The nightspot does most of its business between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., Eddy says, and won't make a profit with its doors shut early. "It's tough to keep a business afloat in downtown anyway," he says.

So, after almost two years of litigation and $250,000 in legal fees, Eddy is moving the Emperor out of the Linden, an 1891 building that takes up a full city block at Main Street and Capitol Avenue. He says he's looking at two spots in downtown Hartford, but is also seriously considering locations in Stamford and New Haven.

The Emperor takes up four of the Linden's 12 commercial units, all owned by Eddy-Bell Commercial Properties, LLC, Eddy's company. The nightclub was known for being exclusive, with valet service, a strictly enforced dress code, and lounge beds obtained only with a $100 minimum bottle service. Weekends often had DJs playing house, hip-hop, R&B and reggaeton.

The 59 Linden condo units feature ornate woodwork and exposed brick walls. Their market values start at $200,000 and go up to $500,000 for the six two-story townhouses, estimates Property Manager Nate Rosiek. Some of the units are directly above the club.

In June 2008, a Hartford Superior Court judge (the same as in this month's ruling) ordered Eddy-Bell Properties to soundproof the Emperor, hire two off-duty police officers after 11 p.m. and close the club's outdoor patio by 11 p.m. The club closed for several months. Eddy put in soundproofing and reopened in September 2008. By December of last year, the Linden Condominium Association filed a motion claiming that the Emperor was as loud as ever, and requested they be closed by 11 every night.

Rosiek is skeptical that any serious soundproofing was ever done. "You could hear the bass reverberating though the building," he says. "People's beds were actually shaking."

Eddy denies that the bass was loud enough to cause vibrations, and says any noise was from the street.

Records show that out of 22 noise complaints registered with the Linden security between March and June 2009, the majority were made by only two Linden residents.

Rosiek says the security records don't reveal the scope of the noise problem: He remembers approximately eight residential units calling him to complain on a consistent basis. One resident of three years moved because of the noise from the Emperor, Rosiek says.

"It's too bad, because truthfully, the association wanted to work with him," Rosiek says. "They know the amount of money and hard work he put into it. But they couldn't sleep at night."

"[The Condo Association] won't be satisfied by any of our efforts," Eddy says. He now would like to move on. "I have a great following and would love to stay in Hartford," he says.

As Hartford seeks to revitalize its downtown with both new residents and increased commerce, the city will have to navigate between a good night's sleep and a good reggaeton bassline

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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