GREENSBORO, N.C. — Safety concerns have emerged in downtown Greensboro as nightclubs and bars are staying open later and are allowed to have more people inside. One restaurant and bar had its alcohol permits suspended after two fights started inside and violence ended up in the streets.
On April 11, Greensboro police were called to Tranquilo Bar and Restaurant on South Elm Street. A fight broke out between two groups in the outside foyer. According to police, four people were treated for minor stab wounds including a security guard. At some point gunshots were heard.
“The situation that happened that Sunday has never happened ever at our business,” said Gregory Forbes, a part-owner of F&C Group which operates Tranquilo.
According to Greensboro police, there have been at least 11 service calls to Tranquilo’s address this year including disorderly conduct to aggravated assault.
Forbes told FOX8 the fight happened during a daytime party hosted by an outside promoter when Tranquilo is normally closed.
“The people that were involved in this don’t frequent Tranquilo’s,” Forbes said. “We were grateful the injuries weren’t more severe.”
According to investigators, people at Tranquilo ran across the street to Crafted – The Art of the Taco where Jon Pepin was working as a server.
“It was basically like pure chaos,” Pepin said. “Everything happened super fast. There was a stampede of people that came into the restaurant, they were diving under tables.”
On April 13, two days after the first incident, Greensboro police responded to another fight involving 10 people in front of Tranquilo.
“We’ve noticed that with the pandemic crime has been the highest it’s been,” Forbes said. “There’s more people dying.”
Forbes told FOX8 safety protocols were followed to keep customers safe during each incident.
“Our security did everything it possibly could to ensure the safety of our patrons so that more individuals wouldn’t get hurt,” he said.
The incidents prompted an investigation by the North Carolina ABC Commission. There are records of another fight that happened in November 2020.
On April 16, Tranquilo’s alcohol permits were suspended citing several sworn affidavits of safety concerns from law enforcement and staff at Crafted – The Art of the Taco. Tranquilo’s owners must address the suspension in an administrative hearing.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan shared a post on Facebook after things got out of control on April 11. She wrote in part, “We cannot turn a blind to businesses that have a history of operating in an unsafe manner.”
Tranquilo’s owners told FOX8 they felt singled out by Vaughan as violent crime has reached new highs across Greensboro.
“As a business owner that’s not something I would like to see my mayor discuss with a constituent before discussing with a business owner who just had this happen,” Forbes said.
“This isn’t about Tranquilo,” Vaughan said. “There have been other businesses that have had issues.”
FOX8 asked Vaughan if she had worked with any agencies to get Tranquilo’s alcohol permits suspended.
“No, I have not spoken to ALE or the North Carolina ABC commission at all,” she said. “That was done entirely through staff the way that normal processes take place.”
Vaughn told FOX8 she plans to work with a diverse group including business owners to create a safety ordinance for the city.
“This is about safety for the city of Greensboro at large,” she said. “We know that the minority community is being hit specifically when it comes to aggravated assaults and homicides and I think people should join us in making Greensboro a safe city.”
Forbes told FOX he plans to be a part of the ordinance planning group.
“F&C Group stands ready to assist the mayor in doing everything it can to ensure the safety of all of Greensboro citizens.”
Tranquilo owners told FOX8 they plan to discuss safety measures during an April 26 virtual meeting city leaders are hosting for the safety ordinance.