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(Syn)gled out?

Club's owners insist violent rap isn't their fault

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Suppose you owned a downtown Colorado Springs nightclub looking to rename the business while disentangling it from recent outbursts of violence. What name would you choose?

How about something like "Syn?"

"That's short for 'synergy,'" explains Scott Collman, co-owner of what has been known as 13 Pure Nightclub at 217 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

Clever as the new name may be, synergy seems to be in short supply as Collman and his business partners react to negative stories about a violent couple months outside the club, culminating in a Dec. 27 shootout in a nearby alley that left one man hospitalized after apparently being shot by a police officer.

Collman insists club patrons often have nothing to do with mayhem outside, but police are concerned with the frequent calls to 13 Pure, as well as the club's casual approach in the past to enforcing the city liquor code.

"We have a large number of issues [at 13 Pure]," says Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock, mentioning the club's celebrated brush with police in August 2008 when women bared their breasts during a filming of a Girls Gone Wild adult video. Except for licensed strip clubs, that's a no-no.

Whitlock sees a correlation between such things happening inside the club and the violence outside: "It seems intuitive, doesn't it?"

That depends on whom you ask. Co-owner Michael Laughlin, who was at 13 Pure on Dec. 27, says the club checks everyone for weapons with a metal detector, and that fights inside are actually rare.

The club had a reputation for attracting violence under previous ownership when it was called Eden, but Laughlin insists management now is determined to maintain a safe environment.

On Dec. 27, Laughlin says, "the person who was shot was never in the club."

That might be true, but Whitlock still confirms 164 police calls to 13 Pure this year through July. That's second among Colorado Springs nightclubs, Whitlock points out, adding that Rum Bay, the leader, might be dinged by calls coming in for other nightspots on Tejon Street.

13 Pure, by contrast, is relatively secluded on Pikes Peak Avenue next to the downtown post office.

The past few weeks have been rough outside 13 Pure, with stabbings, a knife threat and one guest leaving the club only to have a bullet fired through his windshield.

Collman, a former owner of Appaloosa strip club east of Colorado Springs, says the violence often has nothing to do with the club, but adds it has been a "public relations nightmare," complicated by the impending name change and fresh attention to the fact the club has been for sale much of 2009. He says the name change is tied to a trademark claim from a Las Vegas club (Pure), with the attempted sale prompted by the desire of partners to pursue other ventures.

Collman admits it's a tricky time to sell, and the Florida businessman does little to entice prospective buyers, saying he has "never seen such a violent city in my entire life as Colorado Springs." He also refers repeatedly to a November Rolling Stone article about violence tied to soldiers stationed at Fort Carson.

In response, Whitlock rattles off 2007 statistics that make Colorado Springs look safer than such Midwestern crime meccas as Tulsa, Okla., and Wichita, Kan. That year, Colorado Springs had similar or lower numbers of robberies and burglaries and the fewest homicides of the bunch (25) compared to 53 in Tulsa and 35 in Wichita.

Perceptions of increasing violence to the contrary, the city's 2009 homicide tally stood at 19 on Tuesday, with only a couple days left in the year.

lane@csindy.com

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