If rats and roaches wouldn’t work, burning the place down might do the job. That’s what federal prosecutors say the managers of strip club Platinum 21 decided when the club began losing big money to rival Club Onyx.
This week, Boyd Smith, Platinum 21’s former general manager, stands trial on conspiracy charges for the Jan. 2, 2007, arson of Club Onyx. In late 2006, Club Onyx’s business flourished after the Cheshire Bridge Road strip club began targeting a mostly African-American clientele.
“It was like a single-wide trailer competing with the Taj Mahal,” Platinum 21’s corporate manager, Howard “Bit” Thrower, testified Thursday about his competi*ion with the more luxurious club.
As a result, Platinum 21’s revenues tanked, he said.
Facing pressure, Smith, a former Marine who once worked promotion at the infamous Gold Club, and Sandeo Dyson, Platinum 21’s head of security, concocted a plan to torch Club Onyx, Thrower said.
Both Thrower and Dyson have pleaded guilty to their roles in the arson and are key witnesses in the prosecution’s case against Smith.
Defense attorney Jim Hodes said Smith had nothing to do with the blaze. He said prosecutors have struck deals with unsavory, unreliable witnesses who are fingering Smith only to help themselves.
In late 2006, Club Onyx made a splash on Atlanta’s adult entertainment scene almost overnight, hosting parties for rappers Uncle Luke and T.I. Its bar sales soared from $17,000 a week to almost $40,000, according to testimony.
Dyson, moonlighting from his post as a soldier at the Camp Frank D. Merrill mountain training facility in Dahlonega, tried everything he could think of to shut Club Onyx down.
On one occasion, he dumped rats in the club and later littered it with roaches to get the health department to close the club, he said. But neither ploy worked.
Dyson then broke in the club before dawn and started a fire that shut Club Onyx down for six months, causing $1.8 million in damages and lost sales.
After the fire, Thrower testified, “We got more than our fair share of business back.”
Thrower and Dyson admitted they are getting deals from prosecutors for testifying against Smith.
Also, after confessing to federal agents about the arson, Thrower told agents he previously talked to Dyson about committing a commando-style armed robbery of a drug stash house.
Thrower then worked with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents to lure in Dyson, who then brought in four of his soldier colleagues.
Wearing a hidden microphone, Thrower helped agents make the case against the soldiers, all of whom were arrested before they could launch the raid. Four soldiers have pleaded guilty to the scheme.
But Dyson acknowledged that, in exchange for testifying against Smith, prosecutors will not charge him with planning the drug raid.