Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 25, 2014

Compliance check closes Cheers nightclub

PRINCETON — Authorities closed a popular Mercer County nightclub — Cheers — early Sunday morning following a compliance check at the establishment by Mercer County sheriff’s deputies, officers with the Princeton Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s office.

“There were 15 individuals who were cited for underage consumption (of alcoholic beverages) and the establishment had two or three fire code violations,” according to Senior Deputy A.M. Ballard of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. “Cheers will be closed until they get the fire violations taken care of.”

According to Ballard, authorities conducted the compliance check at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, Feb. 23. He stated in the complaint narrative, that when he arrived at Cheers, he noticed, “the general admittance entrance door, which is facing the roadway, was deadbolt locked,” he wrote. “I was then alerted by other officers that several individuals were exiting the establishment through a side door.”

Ballard reported that State Fire Marshal Charles Vanatter along with another fire marshal, as well as Deputy G.C. Paitsel attempted to enter the night club, but had difficulty “because of the large amount of individuals there.” He wrote in the narrative that after getting inside, he alerted Cheers personnel about the compliance check and requested cooperation.

“As State Fire Marshal Vanatter began a safety inspection of the establishment, all other officers and deputies began to check identification as individuals exited the bar,” Ballard stated in his narrative. “Those who were under the age of 21 were given a preliminary breath test to determine if they had been consuming alcoholic beverages.”

Ballard stated that Mercer County sheriff’s deputies cited 15 individuals ranging in age between 18 and 20, with underage consumption of alcohol. “State Fire Marshal Vanatter advised that he located several fire code violations and that the establishment was unsafe to continue operation under those conditions.” He added that Vanatter would report the violations to the state Fire Marshal’s office.

“Several of the individuals I cited for underage consumption advised that ‘anyone’ could get served alcoholic beverages there,” Ballard stated in his narrative. “One subject advised that they would serve ‘a 12-year-old.’ Many of the individuals cited did have obvious ‘X’ marks in black marker on the top of their hands.”

Ballard said that he was unable to talk with Cheers Owner Terry Lane Atkins, because of the number of people law enforcement officers were dealing with in the parking lot. “State Fire Marshal Vanatter advised that they stopped counting occupancy at 325, as it was well above the occupancy limits,” Ballard reported. “There were several other occupants that were not counted in this.”

Ballard stated that he would seek warrants for Atkins, “who was present at the establishment providing alcoholic beverages to minors.” Ballard stated that he was unsuccessful in his efforts to contact officials with the Alcohol Beverage Commission.

Individuals cited at the night club for underage drinking Sunday morning included: Aaron Moore, 19, of Charleston; Morgan Marie Trippett, 18, of Parkersburg; Emily Simpson, 20, of Charleston; Jalen Camper, 19, of Beaver Creek, Ohio; Mark Greenauer, 19, of Hayes, Va.; Joshua McCoy, 20, of Princeton; Hunter Thompson, 18, of Bluefield; Johnny David, 19, of Bluefield; Corey Hager, 20, of Princeton; Richard Johnson, 19, of Charleston; Alexander Stover, 19, of Charleston; Sara Tolley, 19, of Covington, Va.; Shamol White, 20, of Glen Allen, Va.; Rachel Richardson, 18, of Hillsville, Va.; and Darius Hazelwood, 18, of Princeton.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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