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Originally published Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 11:25 AM

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Bellevue Square's Munchbar, site of fatal shooting, won't reopen

Munchbar, a popular Bellevue Square nightspot where a fatal shooting occurred Christmas Eve, won't reopen, Kemper Development Co. announced Thursday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Bellevue long aspired to be a big city.

Now, with its clusters of high-rise offices, condos and entertainment attractions, it has all the hallmarks of one.

But along with profit and pleasure, Bellevue's transformation also has brought pain — none more jarring than last week's fatal shooting at a trendy nightclub in the heart of downtown.

Kemper Freeman Jr., developer of the shopping mall where one man died and another was wounded early Christmas Eve, reacted decisively to the tragedy Thursday.

Munchbar's Munch Sports Grill and its Mirror Ultra Lounge won't reopen, Kemper Development Co., announced in a terse statement.

Kemper and the club operator, Las Vegas-based Munchgroup, agreed to the permanent closure, the announcement said. "Both parties determined this would be best for the community, guests and the families involved."

The announcement came less than 12 hours after Bellevue police announced the arrest of Ja'mari Alexander-Alan Jones, 19, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of DeShawn Milliken, 30, at Munchbar. A second man, Michael Cheatham, 21, was wounded by gunfire.

More than 600 people were in Munchbar at the time of the 1:10 a.m. shooting, including some Seattle Seahawks football players celebrating their runaway victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Freeman, a no-nonsense, politically conservative developer and landlord, declined to be interviewed about Munchbar's closure. Munchgroup executives in Las Vegas also declined to comment.

The club, which opened early in 2010, has generated calls to Bellevue police, particularly on weekends, but police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate said she wasn't aware that it was a source of more problems than other clubs.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board issued administrative violations notices on June 21, 2011, for sale of liquor to a minor and on Nov. 14, 2012, for overserving alcohol. Munchbar also was given a verbal warning in March 2011 for selling spirits by the bottle and in June 2012 for overserving liquor.

The business was given a written warning in July 2011 for advertising an "all you can drink" special, Liquor Control Board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said.

The board has asked Bellevue police for reports on the Christmas Eve incident at Munchbar to determine "whether or not the licensee was in compliance" with state regulations, Carpenter said.

Two other popular downtown clubs also are on Kemper Development property: Lucky Strike and The Parlor both are in Lincoln Square, which is connected to Bellevue Square by a skybridge.

In the wake of the Munchbar tragedy, The Parlor's management has discussed ways of beefing up its already-tough security measures, said marketing director Boone Helm.

The Parlor has its own "full-on security team," does pat-downs and searches of purses and, at the suggestion of police and Kemper security, enforces a dress code "to weed out some of the troublemakers."

As for the shooting at Munchbar, Helm said, "We know you follow the laws of the land or things happen. There's no excuse for someone who's 19 years old to get into a 21-and-over club and then to have gun on them on top of that. There's no excuse."

The Parlor's capacity is more than 800; Munchbar's was more than 700.

As downtown Bellevue's workforce has grown to 45,000 and its resident population to 10,000, the city has reached a critical mass where it has become a regional "night hot spot," said Patrick Bannon, the new president of the Bellevue Downtown Association.

Although the Munchbar shooting will lead property owners and police to take a fresh look at their security practices, Bannon said, downtown's vibrant nightlife is a good thing.

"In the last five years downtown Bellevue has emerged with more and more offerings: restaurants and entertainment establishments open until 2 a.m. By and large that sort of 18-hour activity for a downtown is a very positive development," Bannon said.

Kevin Wallace, a downtown-Bellevue-based developer and City Council member, said the shooting "was a horrible tragedy" but it appears it was an isolated incident "and there were some unfortunate failures connected with that particular incident."

"Any time you have a big city, isolated things like this can happen, but both the police department and Kemper Development have good measures in place to address the security concerns," Wallace said.

Munchgroup's website lists locations in Las Vegas and Bellevue, and two Seattle venues as "coming soon:" Aston Manor and Maison Tavern.

Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this story. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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