YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It has been one week since the deadly shooting at a nightclub on Youngstown’s south side.
On Friday, Utopia opened its doors for the first time since the incident.
The club’s entertainment director, Michael Riffe, discussed what they have done to move forward and stay safe.
The owners of Utopia are trying to move on, hoping the community will join them.
“We just want to give back to everyone that’s been so supportive and that’s why we’re opening back up tonight,” Riffe said.
Riffe has been with the club for the last 10 years.
“Have never seen violence. It was a horrible experience,” he said.
Last weekend during a concert, shots were fired inside the club. It had been rented out for an event.
Charles Allen, Jr. was killed and two others were hurt. Police say Allen was the target of the shooting and that it was not an attack on the LGBTQ+ community. Still, officials continue to investigate.
“We just wanted to make everyone feel safe and know that that wasn’t happening. It was a very unfortunate event. I still am adjusting and trying to do the best I can after experiencing it,” Riffe said.
While the club was closed, upgrades were being made to their security system. Their top priority is making sure people know they’re safe.
The club has gotten a lot of love and support.
“It was overwhelming. I think I cried the whole way home and the rest of that day just with text messages and phone calls and posts on my wall and to Utopia’s wall and [owner Earl Winner’s] wall. It was overwhelming but it’s very much appreciated,” Riffe said.
Like many businesses, Utopia was just starting to emerge from the pandemic. Then this happened, but they have plans to move forward.
“Come out and join us. We’re an all-acceptance club, just because it’s LGBTQ centered, anyone and all are welcome,” Riffe said.