Last Call: Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Neon Moon Saloon is one of the few places in town that’s as serious about partying as it is about taking care of partiers. Every weekend, owner Darren Rhea locks up the liquor at 2:15 a.m. and invites Stockyards regulars into his club to chow down on pizza, sip coffee, and kill buzzes before driving home. His doors usually stay open until 3.
Rhea’s been doing this for years. All’s been cool with the fuzz until a couple of weeks ago, during daylight saving time, when the cops showed up at 2 a.m. and shut the place down. The cops’ argument was that the time wasn’t actually 2 but 3.
Rhea says he told the cops, “This is one of the dumbest mistakes you ever made. It’s just an hour. Should we leave [the patrons] alone and let them sober up or pick them up off the freeway later?”
One police official says moving up closing times during daylight savings is pretty standard procedure. But Rhea and other Stockyards people see things a little differently. Enter: Neon Moon’s neighbor, Club Fusion.
For a while after it opened in 2004, the hip-hop club got to know local law enforcement — and not in a good way. Fusion employees and patrons, according to local police, have received citations for public intoxication, drug usage, and aggravated assault. “They were not maintaining control of the premises,” said Sgt. Terry Parsons, of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Parsons also says that both the Fort Worth police and TABC have had to respond to numerous calls there.
But Fusion has been on its best behavior since January, when both the FWPD and TABC protested the renewal of the club’s beverage sales permit (it expires in August). Owner E.J. Mutani beefed up the number of bouncers at the club, hired more off-duty police officers to work security, and spread the word that Fusion is no gangland war zone. Mutani says that the police and TABC’s putting the screws to him is “all bullshit” and is nothing but the town’s way of bullying the only black club out of the primarily white Stockyards. He says his attorney is on the case.
Rhea and a couple of other inside sources claim that the Stockyards’ (white) real estate moguls are the driving force behind the headaches being suffered by Fusion — and, by proxy, Neon Moon.
“Since Fusion tarnished themselves when they first got down there, the old men of the Stockyards have no tolerance for them now,” Rhea said. “[The old men] put a requisition in for a lot of overtime police help. Now on a Saturday night, there’s four to six cruisers and a paddy wagon sitting around with nothing to do. Just waiting. It’s really unnecessary enforcement and unnecessary wages we’re paying these cops that probably could be used better in some other part of town.”
Fusion’s landlord, Mike Costanza, believes he can smell the stench of racism. “I think there’s an element that does not want Hispanic or black people in the Stockyards,” he said. “I have no doubt. I can’t prove it, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist [when you can] see a bunch of patrol cars parked down there doing nothing.”
Holt Hickman, the biggest owner of property in the Stockyards, said that he wasn’t even aware of Fusion’s previous troubles. But he didn’t sound upset about any problems the club might be having, either. “I honestly had no idea,” he said. “The Stockyards that I’m involved in was built for family entertainment. It has been a major tourist attraction, and our goal is to keep it safe. We certainly don’t want any problems.”

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