On Saturday night, Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge owner/operator Germaine Redding posted a photo of himself standing next to Scarface, the Texas rapper who was about to take the stage at the south Lansing venue. It was the most high profile concert Fahrenheit had hosted in recent years, and a sellout crowd of 600 had shown up to see the former Geto Boys member perform. Redding was elated.
“The legend is here at Fahrenheit!” the photo caption read.
Several hours later, however, gunfire erupted inside the building, 6810 S. Cedar St., sending three people to the hospital. Early Monday, Redding made another post.
“My heart weighs heavy to say that I’m officially retiring,” it read in part. “The outcome is clear … leave on my own terms and not spend my time fighting a losing battle when I can enjoy my time raising my 16-year-old son that I love more than the world. This is not me giving up or giving in. It's called smart business.”
In the wake of the shooting, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero vowed to revoke Fahrenheit’s cabaret license, but Redding’s move renders the threat moot.
“I’m sad, I’m disappointed and I’m hurt,” Redding said Monday night. “But most of all, I feel violated. All I’ve been trying to do all these years is give the people a place to go, someplace positive. But a few bad people — or one bad person — ruined this for everyone. When I close, I promise the problem isn’t going away. It’s just going to go somewhere else.”
Redding, 43, leased the 17,000-square-foot building in 2008 from New York-based Holiday Park Realty and opened the nightclub under the name Venue Live. Two years later it became Level II, and then in 2011 it became Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge.
But the building has a rough history. Before Redding took over, it had been home to the L.A. Globe, which lost its liquor license in 2001 — the first Lansing bar in 20 years to do so — after numerous run-ins with the law. The owners sued the city for discrimination and settled out of court for $200,000.
“We went from having the most amount of problems of any bar in town to having none at all,” Redding said shortly after Fahrenheit opened. “I think we’ve found a formula that worked.”
Fahrenheit transitioned from a nightclub that was open every weekend to a performance venue that would only open for shows. Hip-hop artists Juvenile and Ludacris played there, as well as rock acts Saving Abel and Saliva. But slowly, Fahrenheit also became something else: a charity for struggling local families.
“Germaine let us use Fahrenheit in 2010 for a fundraiser for Chance for Life, a foundation set up in my (late) nephew’s honor,” said Bianca Villastrigo. “My mother used to call him part of the family after that. After she got cancer in 2012, he opened his doors again and helped us raise over $2,000 to help out with her bills. He didn’t have to do that. That meant a lot to me. He’s very supportive to the community.”
Redding also donated food, prepared in Fahrenheit’s kitchen, to help people raise money for other causes, which ranged from helping to pay for the funeral of a local boy who committed suicide to fundraisers benefitting the American Cancer Society. He called Fahrenheit his “hobby.” For the last 17 years, he’s also operated his own employment agency, which he supplements with his production company, booking national acts into local venues.
“People think Fahrenheit is my income, but really it was just something to do to give back to the city to have entertainment,” Redding said. “Financially, I’m already stable. That’s why I can make the decision to retire. (The city) has been trying to take my license since I opened. I’m done fighting them.”
Redding said he’s reached out to the mother of one of the victims to apologize and has been cooperating with the police in the search for the shooting suspect. He said security was tight all night long at the Scarface show, but at the end of the night things may have gotten lax, allowing guests to leave and re-enter so they could smoke. He thinks this is when the gun was snuck in.
“I was there the whole night, and when I heard the gunshots, I was thinking, ‘What the hell?’” he said. “This was an older, calmer crowd. It’s the last thing that I ever thought could happen.”
At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Redding will host an anti-gun violence rally outside Fahrenheit. The event will double as his grand farewell.
“I want to leave on a positive, as opposed to a negative vibe,” he said. “I’m not in this to see people get hurt. I want to help. But now Fahrenheit isn’t going to be able to do that anymore. I hope someday Lansing can do better than this.”