As owner of the Miller-Jackson Building, Jeff Brown is responsible for one of the largest properties along the Bricktown Canal.
When I first met Brown, the building was still in its original state, home to what was left of a family-owned implements (later warehouse) company that dated back a century. He renovated the space as the canal was built in 1998, and can boast that he was one of the few owners of old warehouses in Bricktown to successfully renovate and lease all of the upper floors as office space.
Brown also can boast that he leased space to what I believe was the city’s first wine and art operation with “Put a Cork in It,” and was a part in launching the Red Dirt Emporium gift shop before it was sold and moved to another spot along the canal.
But Brown’s record as a major Bricktown property owner includes signing leases with club operators that have led to some scary implications for the long-term viability of the entertainment district.
This history dates to one of the first clubs to occupy the storefront at 119 E California Ave., Bricktown Keys, which started out as a piano bar but as time wore on families enjoying a stroll along the Bricktown Canal complained of profanely worded hip-hop music blaring from the club’s speakers.
Bricktown’s first slaying took place outside yet another club that leased space from Brown at 119 E California. Daniel Maxedon, 25, an Air Force veteran, was beaten to death on Nov. 27, 2012. An excellent investigation by The Oklahoman’s Juliana Keeping a few months later showed that the level of violence outside the club far exceeded incidents taking place anywhere else in Bricktown.
Rok Bar closed a couple of years later. And Brown’s new tenant was yet another nightclub – Club Social. And it was here, where Maxedon was beaten to death, that Zachary Bowie, 30, apparently an innocent bystander simply waiting on a line to enter the club late Friday, was slain.
According to police reports and a witness I’ve spoken to, a club patron got into an argument about midnight Friday and he was evicted and escorted out of Club Social and on to the Bricktown Canal area. Soon after, the man appeared along the south side of the canal, across from the Miller Jackson Building and fired toward the crowd outside Club Social, hitting and killing Bowie.
I emailed and called Brown on Monday, but got no response. I previously questioned him about posters of porn stars that were displayed in the store front windows when the club was Rok Bar, and the displays soon stopped, but the club operations continued.
Other property owners have decided that leasing to nightclubs along the most valuable real estate in Bricktown — along the canal — makes no sense long-term for themselves or the district.
The former owners of the Kingman Building at 100 E California decided after the demise of Banana Joe’s nightclub that such operations were bad for business. That was more than a decade ago.
When Skyy Bar atop JDM Place, 7 Mickey Mantle Drive, closed last year, the property owners also declared they would no longer lease the space out to nightclubs.
Nightclubs are seen as a quick infusion of a lot of cash, but rarely do they last more than a few years.
Oklahoma City has more than $75 million invested along the canal. Major developments are pending. Will Jeff Brown end the era of nightclubs at 119 E California? And what happens to the city’s investment, and to other Bricktown property owners, merchants and business owners, if Brown continues to lease this prime space to nightclubs?