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Fledgling church fills club's spot

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The former Club Chrome is now a house of worship.

Faith Ministries International, a non-denominational church, purchased and remodeled the former nightclub at 3075 Normandy Road and has been holding Wednesday and Sunday services there since mid-October.

It is a dramatic switch, said Pastor Emmanuel Odele, for a property that was shut down by the city in December 2011 for repeated violations of city liquor, safety and building codes.

The club also had a history of violent confrontations inside and out, including the stabbing death of a 19-year-old outside the club in the early morning hours of Christmas Day 2011. The city placarded the building within a matter of days.

"We wanted to help restore that neighborhood," said Odele. "We moved out all the bar equipment, stripped up the floor and cleaned the building. It was a lot of work."

Odele said the small congregation, about 30 members, relocated from a space on North Street.

Emergency shutdown

Law enforcement, zoning and liquor-control officials joined Mayor Mike Houston and Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson at the club on Dec. 30, 2011, to enforce an emergency order shutting down the business as a threat to public safety.

The club's liquor license had been revoked the previous March because of marijuana smoking on the premises, though then-owner Neil Patel said the club continued to be used for private parties.

Simpson described the condition of the property at the time as "reprehensible." She called for demolition then.

Recently, however, she said it's certainly appropriate for one of the city's most troubled nightclubs to have been converted to a church.

"I'm just so pleased," said Simpson. "I'm overwhelmed that they are in there, and they are working with the community. Hopefully, it'll get some people from the neighborhood to walk to church."

Simpson said she believes the transformation also will draw other development to the area.

Houston said the building's new zoning designation prohibits liquor sales, even if the church should move on some day.

"It's quite a change," said Houston, "but we're happy to see the building improved and being used the way it is."

Dance floor to sanctuary

The switch from bar to church required a zoning change, according to city building department manager John Sadowski.

He said zoning officials also met with Faith Ministries International representatives to go over code violations.

"They really did understand what they were getting into," said Sadowski, noting that numerous repairs were required to make the building habitable, including a new roof.

"They did a lot of interior work," said Sadowski. "The area that was the dance floor for Club Chrome, I believe, is now a sanctuary."

The department issued a temporary occupancy permit for the church last month.

Odele said there is more work to do. For now, however, services include 10 a.m. Sunday school and 11 a.m. Sunday worship, as well as a 6:30 p.m. service on Wednesdays.

"We are in our eighth year, and we're hoping to grow," said Odele.



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