When retired businessman Charles Cummings decided to run for mayor of the Garden City, he knew it wouldn’t take long before questions would arise about his former club, Super C’s Lounge on Tobacco Road.
In 2007, a teenager was shot to death inside club on the dance floor.
It was around 2 a.m. and more than 150 people were inside the club dancing when the gunman fired and 18-year-old Stedmund Deaires Fryer was murdered.
Cummings, whose nickname is “Super C,” insisted that he provided the club with sufficient security, but he ultimately lost his liquor license over the tragedy.
But one aspect of the incident that some Augustans could never shake was the fact that the shooting was far from the first incident that happened at Super’s C Lounge.
In fact, five years before Fryer’s death, Cummings’ club was in hot water with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department.
In April 2002, the sheriff’s department went before the Augusta Commission with a detailed incident report about the club.
From Dec. 20, 2001, until March 19, 2002, the club had experienced 42 separate incidents (21 of which resulted in arrests), including 12 disorderly conduct arrests, two simple battery charges, three DUI arrests and one felony aggravated assault charge.
Prior to New Year’s Eve in 2001, then-Sgt. Greg Smith of the Richmond County sheriff’s vice division, told commissioners that he met with the owner of the club, Charles Cummings, to talk about the department’s concerns.
But the trouble at Super C’s didn’t stop there.
“On New Year’s Eve, the 31st, there were more problems. We had a disorderly conduct and there was an aggravated assault, which is a felony assault,” Smith told the Augusta Commission in 2002. “That means there was some pretty serious bodily injury.”
As a result, Smith brought the incidents at the club to then-Sheriff Ronnie Strength’s attention and he called for another meeting with Cummings.
In January 2002, the three men sat down to talk about the situation at the lounge.
However, Smith said things still did not improve at the club after the meeting.
“From the 14th of January through the 19th of March, we had 28 more incidents out there,” Smith said in 2002.
Despite the growing number of incidents at Super C’s Lounge, it was shocking the way several Augusta commissioners defended the club.
For example, Commissioner Marion Williams said in 2002 that it was unfair for Smith to include the incidents Super C’s had on New Year’s Eve.
“I think everywhere except church, and maybe even in church, there was an altercation on New Year’s Eve,” Williams said in 2002. “I think we should dismiss New Year’s Eve because that’s a time where people act as if there is no tomorrow.”
Williams said Cummings told him that he was trying to maintain control of his club by hiring off-duty deputies, but on one occasion a deputy showed up and left the lounge when he saw the size of the crowd.
“What essentially happened was two deputies didn’t show up (to work the lounge) and the third did, and when he realized he was going to be the only deputy there that night he just went home,” Smith told Williams. “He said it was too dangerous to work by himself. Those two deputies who did not show up have been reprimanded.”
Smith also added there was one incident at the lounge in which an officer was assaulted.
In his defense, Cummings tried to correct the situation in 2002 by agreeing with the sheriff that the off-duty deputies should arrive at the club much earlier, prior to the club getting crowded.
He also decided to allow only patrons 21 and older into the lounge.
Prior to 2002, Super C’s was not only a club, but it also had a restaurant license, and therefore was allowed to have patrons eating at the lounge who were under the age of 21.
But even that was highly questionable.
At the time, then-Augusta Commissioner Steve Shepard asked about the percentage of food sales at the lounge.
“I can tell you it’s 53 percent, but with an asterisk,” Smith told commissioners in 2002. “There is alcohol that was purchased that he can’t explain where it went to.”
Cummings couldn’t explain where the alcohol went to? What?
Then-City Administrator George Kolb said the city had audited Cummings’ records and found that 53 percent of the lounge’s profits came from food sales, but that some alcohol could not be accounted for.
“That would have changed that ratio if we could have accounted for it,” Kolb said in 2002. “The alcohol sales would have been greater.”
If the food sales were less than 50 percent, the lounge could not be classified as a restaurant.
When the city asked Cummings to respond to the audit, he said that there was a theft at the lounge and alcohol had been taken.
But Cummings also told the commissioners the audit could be slightly inaccurate because, at Super C’s, the customer always gets a good, stiff drink.
“This is a jigger,” Cummings told commissioners in 2002, holding up a metal object bartenders use to measure alcohol in drinks. “This is the one-ounce side and this is the two- ounce side. Now, if you are going to count up all the alcohol, most likely you are going to count the one-shot side and do your figuring. Well, we always pour from the double-shot side, just to make the customer more happy.”
No. 1, the fact that a mayoral candidate can explain the word “jigger” so well is probably not a plus. Even though Cummings insists he has never had a drink in his life.
No. 2, the fact that he was serving a “double-shot” to make customers “more happy” was good for patrons, but probably not financially good for his business or the safety of the roadways.
No. 3, if Cummings’ response to an audit, which found possible inaccuracies in his alcohol sales, was that there was either a theft at the lounge or the club simply provided “stiff drinks,” that is a very weak excuse.
Conclusion: Do we need a mayor who makes excuses to cover his ass(ets)? You decide.