Business owners face charges stemming from shooting

Published 12:58 pm Thursday, May 28, 2020

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The owners of Rennee’s Celebration Center face multiple charges stemming from a shooting of a woman at a party outside the East Washington Street venue, according to Suffolk Police.

Jeffrey Van Townsend, 52, of Suffolk, and Rennee Townsend, 57, of Suffolk, have each been charged with violating an executive order, possession of alcohol without a license, maintaining a common nuisance and the illegal sale of alcohol. Jeffrey Van Townsend faces an additional charge of obstruction of justice.

The two surrendered themselves Wednesday at police headquarters, where they were served with the charges and released on summonses, according to a news release.

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Police are still investigating the incident in which a 27-year-old woman was shot in the leg late Sunday as more than 100 people were near Rennee’s, at 178 E. Washington St., where police observed multiple active fights, a previous news release stated. The shooting happened at 11:48 p.m. The woman was taken to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Several people were taken into custody for disorderly conduct, though no one has yet been charged in connection to the shooting.

The charge for violating an executive order is regarding Executive Order 61, Directive, paragraph 2a, city spokeswoman Diana Klink said Friday. It states restaurants, dining establishments and others may operate delivery, takeout and outdoor dining only. The same order states that all public and private, in-person gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeffrey Van Townsend received a conditional use permit Feb. 7, 2018 to operate the banquet hall from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, which are its current hours. In his original conditional use permit application, he had asked for his business to stay open until 2 a.m. nightly.

Last year, Jeffrey Van Townsend sought to once again get permission to extend Rennee’s hours until 2 a.m. nightly, but after city staff and the Planning Commission had recommended denying his request, City Council voted 8-0 against extending the hours of the business.

At the time, Townsend had said he was losing out on hosting events such as family reunions, holiday and birthday events because he cannot stay open later.

Police Chief Thomas Bennett also did not recommend extending Rennee’s hours, saying “the later these type of establishments that have alcohol stay open, the more problems we have, generally.”