Third Ward nightclub owner surrenders license

Seeks to clarify 'misstatements' on shooting incident

Third Ward nightclub Site 1A has closed its doors at 231 E. Buffalo St., following a homicide that occurred outside of the building.

Aaron Ohlsson, owner of Site 1A, is seeking to clear up “misstatements” made public in the wake of a fatal shooting that took place last year outside the now-shuttered nightclub in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

Sparked by a physical altercation between two patrons inside Site 1A after operating hours, the Dec. 6 incident resulted in the death of Andra Nicholson Jr. Former Hales Corners firefighter Caesar Fuentes was charged with first degree reckless homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, according to court records. He has pleaded not guilty.

In response to the incident, Milwaukee Police Department requested the revocation of the Class B tavern and Public Entertainment licenses for Site 1A, at 231 E. Buffalo Street. The city’s Licenses Committee had scheduled a revocation hearing on Jan. 21, but canceled it upon Ohlsson’s decision to surrender the business’ licenses Wednesday, according to city records.

Site 1A permanently closed its doors last weekend after four years in business.

MPD’s Jan. 7 complaint charges Ohlsson with allowing patrons at the venue after operating hours and failing to deescalate the altercation between Fuentes and Nicholson. Based on video surveillance and witness statements, MPD also claimed that Ohlsson had been aware prior to the shooting that Fuentes was carrying firearm.

In an interview with an MPD detective during the homicide investigation, Ohlsson denied seeing the firearm that video surveillance shows “sticking out of (Fuentes’) front pants pocket,” according to the complaint. Ohlsson was consequently arrested for providing what were suspected to be “false statements” to law enforcement.

In a statement sent to BizTimes Milwaukee late Thursday, Ohlsson’s attorney, Emil Ovbiagele, provided an account of the events surrounding the Dec. 6 incident, in an effort to “clarify the circumstances.”

“At no time did Mr. Ohlsson see the gun being carried by Mr. Fuentes,” according to the statement.

MPD has since issued a supplemental report, correcting its original review of audio surveillance of a conversation between Ohlsson and Fuentes during the altercation, prior to the shooting; Ohlsson is recorded saying, ‘I gave you a shot but you had to pull the pistol on him,’ referring to Nicholson, which would suggest evidence of prior knowledge of the weapon.

According to the report, both individuals were speaking at the same time.

“While reviewing the audio it sounded like Fuentes said something similar to, ‘I pulled a pistol on him.’ Simultaneously Ohlsson stated something similar to, ‘you had your shot.’¬†Upon reviewing this audio several times it was clear that Ohlosson did not make the statement that was relayed…,” initially by a detective, the report states.

Ohlsson’s attorney claims Ohlsson did not hear Fuentes’ comment. Ohlsson was immediately released following his interview and no criminal charges were referred, according to his statement.

Ohlsson had not made any prior public statements as “to not compromise the investigation of Mr. Nicholson’s death,” but Ohlsson now “feels it’s necessary to provide clarity given the misstatements that have been made public and the rumors that have circulated on social media,” Ovbiagele wrote on behalf of Ohlsson.

Ohlsson and former Site 1A staff “will continue to cooperate with law enforcement,” and Ohlsson “hopes to see justice prevail for the death of Andra Nicholson and sends his deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” according to the statement.

The city’s complaint also notes that no Site 1A employee contacted law enforcement or sought medical attention in response to the shooting incident.

Ovbiagele claims Ohlsson and the club’s staff were in a back office space when the shooting occurred and did not know until after police arrived.

The Dec. 6 homicide was not the first time the city raised issue with Site 1A and its operators since its opening in 2016. Most recently, the nightclub’s licenses were suspended for 20 days from Sept. 22 to Oct. 11, 2020 due to police reports of noise complaints and after-hours activity as well as aldermanic objections. Its licenses were also suspended in Feb. 2019 for 10 days mostly in response to neighborhood and aldermanic complaints about “disorderly nuisance behavior” from the bar’s patrons, according to city documents.

Surrendering a license in lieu of revocation proceedings means Milwaukee’s Licenses Committee won’t recommend approval of any new license application the operator would submit for the next 12 months, according to the city.¬†

Ohlsson remains the owner of two other music-entertainment businesses in Milwaukee: The Miramar Theater on North Oakland Avenue and Brew City Bass, an EDM production group.

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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