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Destler Dodge

A line composed of young men dressed in flashy clothing and women in tight-fitting garb moved at a snail's pace off of East Avenue. The sound of mainstream hip-hop reverberated through the stone walls. Ahead, a broad-shouldered man in a black t-shirt marked “Security” stood with arms crossed and a stern expression. Patrons slowly tumbled through the door, passing through an airport-style metal detector. When the alarm beeped, a young woman in a black mini-skirt stepped back and removed her keys from her pockets, handing them off to the security guard. Upon passing through, a second security guard stopped her, running a hand-held metal detector over her shoulders, down her sides and up between her legs, patting her down with short yet deliberate movements. Finally, the guard took her ID card and scanned it through a computer which resembled something out of a supermarket checkout line. He handed her back the ID and pointed her up a flight of stairs.

This is Magic City, a nightclub located in Rochester's lively East End neighborhood and these seemingly drastic security measures are in response to a history ripe with controversy.

Standing at the former site of Heat, a similarly themed hip-hop dance club, Magic City opened its doors in February of 2014, filling the void in the night club scene following the closing of Heat early this year. A welcome contribution to the East End, however, soon became the subject of controversy as Magic City stepped into its first summer.

In the center of the club there is a lowered dance floor, a circular space where young men grind viciously along young women, who dance with rapid, in some cases almost seizure-like gyrations. It is in this spot that on July 6, a 36-year-old man, as reported by YNN, was sliced several times on his upper-body with a knife after becoming involved in an argument with another club-goer. Though the man survived, low-security measures are blamed for allowing this incident to occur.

Though the most notable incident of violence to occur within the club's walls, this is certainly not the first violent act in Magic City. On June 6, two men in their 20s were shot in a parking lot on East Avenue upon leaving the club, according to WHEC Rochester. Both victims survived. Coupled with these incidents were near constant reports of fights and threats of violence. Shortly following the stabbing incident in July, Mayor Lovely Warren sent a formal request for Magic City to close to revamp security, WHEC reported. Magic City accepted the request, opting to undergo an overhaul of their security program.

On August 22, following a $20,000 investment in the aforementioned metal detectors and the state-of-the-art card scanner, which keeps a log of everyone who’s in the club at all times, Magic City re-opened to the public. Though the security measures are thorough to say the least, owner Robert Monteneri, who has made a point to cooperate and work with police following the previous violent incidents at the club, is not content to say the job is complete as of yet.

“Ya know, we just re-opened. I can't make any comment on whether the new security has made an impact yet,” Monteneri said. “We're just trying to cooperate with the city and make the place safe and fun for everyone.”

Of course, with the heavy security screenings in their infancy, it is natural to see some resistance from club-goers.

“Damn yo, you gotta cup my nuts like that?” a man in a gray hoodie said as a security guard performed a pat-down. The guard smirked and gave some final pats before waving him on. The man stepped away, adjusting his pants and leering over his shoulder.

If anything, the situation at Magic City raises questions about the state of the club scene in general. Yes, of course we would all love to live in a world where violence doesn't exist and a club does not need metal detectors. However, this is clearly not the world we live in. We live in a society where violence is never in short supply; where near-sighted, cut-throat decisions are made on whims by people carrying box cutters and .22 caliber revolvers. This is a realization that must be made as a culture, and perhaps the events and precautions taken at Magic City serve as a wake-up call that the nightlife in Rochester needs moderation, lest it devolve into anarchy. Though this issue has been chalked up to media sensationalism, racism and “outsiders” from inner-city neighborhoods traveling to the East End or some mix of the three, applying blame is a moot point. The true, unfortunate reality is this aesthetic is often a deterrent for those looking for a party spot.

Two men, both dressed in polo-shirts, one in khakis and the other in blue jeans, stepped up to the door, looking up and around the large metal detector with wide eyes, leering over at each other and then back up at the metal frame. As the line thinned and they made their way to the front, the security guard raised a hand to wave them through, motioning with two fingers. The pair looked at the guard and then back at each other.

“Fuck this.”