December 22, 2004
Some Valley nightclub owners haven’t changed security measures that they already consider stringent after a kidnapping of a Scottsdale club manager.
Three people took Jeff O’Neil, general manager of Axis/Radius, at gunpoint about 4 a.m. Sunday from his home in Tempe to the club, 7340 E. Indian Plaza, after closing and forced him to remove money from a safe, said Sgt. Dan Masters, a Tempe police spokesman.
No one has been arrested.
"There’s no doubt he was a specific target; it was not a random armed robbery," Masters said.
Police said the robbers followed or waited for O’Neil at the house before he was able to get in.
"We don’t have anything to disprove his account," Masters said.
O’Neil was only able to tell police that the kidnappers wore ski masks and latex gloves.
The manager’s hands and face were duct-taped, but he didn’t suffer any injuries.
"At this time it appears to be an isolated case," Masters said.
Diane Corieri, a partner in the Evening Entertainment Group that owns Axis/Radius, Suede Restaurant and Lounge, Sandbar Mexican Grill, Myst, and Sports City Grill, said O’Neil was also a partner who has been with the group for about 10 years.
"We’ve wracked our brains about what he could have done to prevent this," she said. "They were at his house. It wasn’t leaving the door unlocked. He wasn’t careless."
The group is putting more cameras inside and outside of the clubs, adding security to escort managers and telling employees not to go to their cars alone, she said.
Scottsdale detective Sam Bailey said he has never heard of a Scottsdale club manager being kidnapped at home before being brought back to work to open a safe. However, it has happened to bank managers in the past, he said.
"If something has to go on, it usually happens in the back room before closing time," Bailey said. "That’s pretty unusual."
Sometimes people who have financial difficulties will concoct scenarios, but he stressed he didn’t know if that was the case.
Tom Anderson and Richard Hartz are armed at closing time at their clubs. Neither are changing their security procedures.
"I’m almost worried that there’s going to be copycats," said Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Fifth Estate, and Upper Deck Sports Grill. He declined to divulge his security measures. "It’s a very scary deal and I hope they catch these guys quickly."
Anderson has known O’Neil for a few years, he said.
Anderson said it may be an inside deal, somebody who knew something about O’Neil’s schedule.
There’s less money to steal at clubs now, because of the level of sales done on credit cards, he added.
Hartz, whose son owns the Great Alaskan Bush Co., said the closing staff of about five are armed. "We figured we stopped everything before it got going."
O’Neil could not be reached for comment.