COLUMBIA — Peppers Nightclub has reopened after being shut down for having more than 10 critical health violations, but it still faces pressure from county attorneys, who are seeking an injunction to close the establishment for one year.
The health violations — including ground beef that was over a month past its expiration date, and the presence of mice and fruit flies — were assessed Friday after the Boone County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at the club.
Sheriff's Department deputies also reported evidence of the staff’s involvement in prostitution and the illegal use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or EBT cards, to obtain food for the business. EBT cards work as debit cards for food stamp benefits.
The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services required that the business remedy the 13 critical violations within a 72-hour period. After deputies followed up with an inspection on Monday, they concluded that all violations had been addressed and that the club would be allowed to reopen, said department spokeswoman Geni Alexander.
After the Sheriff's Deparment's search, owner Karon Rowe, 61, was arrested Friday on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful conversion of food stamps and promoting prostitution.
Rowe and her business have a history with Boone County law enforcement. In 2007, she was arrested for attempting to promote prostitution, and this year, the Sheriff’s Department responded to calls from the club regarding a shooting and a stabbing that occurred on separate occasions.
“My work on this didn’t start on Friday,” said Boone County Counselor Charles Dykhouse, who, along with attorney Ryan Haigh filed a petition Friday for an injunction to close the business for one year. “We’ve been working on it for a long time.”
The prosecutors are also seeking a preliminary injunction that would close the business for the duration of the court proceedings, Dykhouse said. Haigh is also the prosecuting attorney in the criminal case against Rowe.
“We’re going to move forward as quickly as we can,” said Dykhouse. “I believe with every fiber of my being that that property is a public nuisance.”