By Bailey Lewis
The sound of “My Type” by Saweetie pierces the ears while walking through the open front entrance and, with only the dimly lit bar as a visual guide, it is nearly impossible to see anything but the silhouettes of those gathered to let loose on a Friday night.
Welcome to a reopened Campus Corner establishment called 3rd Base Norman, formerly Kong’s Tavern. After Kong’s mixed beverage permit was suspended by the city of Norman in July and officially closed, ownership was reorganized, and 3rd Base opened in the same location at 563 Buchanan Ave. on Aug. 27.
The location, before and after the change, has been known to stir things up on Campus Corner.
In 2019, the Norman Police Department has been called to the location of Kong’s and 3rd Base a total of 116 times, according to data from the department through Oct. 15.
That is four and a half times higher than the number of NPD calls at other popular bars and restaurants on Campus Corner so far this year.
In comparison to the 116 calls to Kong’s and 3rd Base, NPD has been called 25 times to Logie’s On The Corner, 24 times to O’Connell’s Irish Pub & Grille, 24 times to Seven47, 17 times to The Porch, 10 times to Volare and six times to The Deli in 2019.
A manager at 3rd Base, who would not give his name to The Daily, said he was surprised by the high amount of incident calls because they have “a letter of support from the city.”
“(The letter says) that our turnaround and our effort has produced results and … made it a more positive situation,” the manager said. “So, we’ve done everything we can. We’ve gotten better. We’re still getting better.”
Shyon Keoppel, one of the two co-owners of 3rd Base, said the majority of calls would occur even when “something wasn’t happening,” and some people “just call and make false reports.”
“When it comes down to actually police and fire and any of those types of people coming in, that has definitely gone down tremendously,” Keoppel said.
Holly Morris, elementary education junior, described 3rd Base as a “vibrant place to go to” that has “the best music in town.” Dory Lieber, early childhood education senior, and Morris said 3rd Base is very loud, and Lieber said her experiences at 3rd Base have been “lackluster.”
“During the night, it’s dark,” Lieber said. “The music is considerably louder than it was at Kong’s. The smells are the same — sweaty, pretty gross, liquor. The outside of 3rd Base is the same as it was with Kong’s — 3rd Base is Kong’s with a new name.”
Lieber said she wasn’t surprised Kong’s shut down, but she was “surprised to see how fast 3rd Base went up.”
“I’ve actually talked to some people who worked there and told them that I thought it was the exact same as Kong’s, and they responded defensively, claiming that it was completely different,” Lieber said. “I guess I don’t see the major differences because I’m on the consumer side, and the physical setup of 3rd Base is the same as Kong’s.”
The manager said 3rd Base has worked with the city and has done what has been asked of them.
“It is a completely different situation,” the manager said, “and sure, there are things that are bound to happen in a place that gets so busy. But it’s a lot better than it was. It’s getting better every day, and we don’t condone the things that were happening before.”
Physical differences aside, the location still brings in a significant amount of incident calls: 13 of 3rd Base’s 116 calls have taken place between the restaurant’s reopening on Aug. 27 and Oct. 15, which is around double the amount of calls to each of the six other restaurants and bars in the same period.
By contrast, during that period, NPD was called to O’Connell’s seven times, Logie’s six times, Volare four times, Seven47 four times, The Deli two times and The Porch once.
The severity of the calls in this period also differs between 3rd Base and the other six locations. NPD has been called to 3rd Base two times for fights and once each for an alleged assault, a noise complaint, a suspicious individual and a domestic disturbance. The other eight calls consisted of following up on previous calls, welfare checks and one 911 call of an unknown nature.
Five of the seven calls to O’Connell’s were due to parking problems, one was for vandalism and the other for a domestic disturbance. All six calls to Logie’s were for alarms, and each of the four calls to Seven47 were for different things — a missing person, a welfare check, vandalism and a parking problem.
All four of Volare’s calls were for alarms. NPD Capt. Brent Barbour said these cover any type of fire or burglary alarm that goes off at a location. At The Deli, one call was for public intoxication and the other for a domestic disturbance. The single call to The Porch was for larceny.
But these numbers — or lack thereof — can be deceiving, Barbour said.
“For bars, you may have a bouncer or a manager who says, ‘I’m calling the cops every time,’ and other ones who say, ‘We’re dealing with this in-house. We only call them if we need them,’” Barbour said. “But we are (at 3rd Base) a lot. I mean, it’s not a secret by any means.”
In 2019, however, 14 of the calls to Kong’s/3rd Base were for noise complaints, 12 for alcohol violations or public intoxication, 10 for fights and eight for assaults.
All six of the other bars and restaurants have had no assault calls in 2019, and O’Connell’s has had one call for a fight. A fight, Barbour said, is if someone gets shoved or hit by another individual, which may or may not result in an assault charge.
The Porch and O’Connell’s have both received one noise complaint. The Porch has had three calls for an alcohol violation or public intoxication, O’Connell’s has had two, The Deli has had one, Volare has had one, Seven47 has had one drug violation and Logie’s has had none.
Most of the calls at the other bars and restaurants were due to parking problems, bar checks and alarms.
Hannah Stephen, nursing and biology junior, said she went to Kong’s once in the spring when a fight broke out.
“I didn’t feel unsafe when I was there, but it was a little scary that a fight broke out and the cops had to be called,” Stephen said.
In April, The Norman Transcript reported that Kong’s Tavern was cited for being over capacity, along with citations and arrests for alcohol violations, which were discovered during two NPD proactive projects for safety on Campus Corner. The projects took place on Friday, March 29.
One of the projects was in collaboration with the fire marshal, and Kong’s was found to be over capacity by 51 people, according to The Transcript. Former co-owner of Kong’s James Vu told The Transcript at the time it was raining outside when the fire marshal came to the restaurant to address a noise complaint, so the bar was overcapacity because “outdoor patrons” were taking shelter inside.
During its second project, which focused on reducing underage drinking, NPD arrested two people for public intoxication, cited seven for minor in possession and two for possession of a fake ID, and arrested a 17-year-old for using a fake ID to get into the restaurant, The Transcript reported.
Lieber said she has been to Kong’s about 15 times, and 3rd Base around three to five times.
“I personally haven’t had any bad experiences at 3rd Base, but some of my friends have had terrible ones when it was Kong’s,” Lieber said.
Jeanne Snider, Norman’s assistant city attorney, said Kong’s liquor license was suspended in July because it would not provide documentation requested by the Norman city clerk to prove it fell under the qualifications of a restaurant.
“Kong’s was licensed as a restaurant, which requires 35 percent or more of sales be food,” Snider said. “Kong’s did not provide all required documentation to make that determination.”
Rather than providing the documentation, Kong’s Tavern closed for about a month, and 3rd Base opened in its place.
The new 3rd Base is also licensed as a restaurant, and Snider said, as of now, “the city has no information that it is not operating within that license.”
Carrie Hendricks, executive director of the Campus Corner Association, declined to comment about Kong’s closure or 3rd Base’s opening, saying the association “does not comment on individual businesses.”
Keoppel said he and the other owner wanted to start a new restaurant in place of Kong’s to reboot things.
“We wanted to start off fresh with new names, all new management and employees,” Keoppel said.
Vu was one of the three co-owners of Kong’s and stepped down in July after it closed down, The Transcript reported. There are now two co-owners of 3rd Base instead of three, Keoppel said, but he would not give the name of the other co-owner.
“I’d ask to leave his name out of it,” Keoppel said in a text to The Daily. “He’s a quiet guy and would like to stay that way.”
Lieber said while she has never personally felt unsafe at Kong’s or 3rd Base, she is not shocked by its high amount of incident calls.
“Hearing that the police have been called to 3rd Base is not surprising because it was the same way with Kong’s — I guess old habits die hard,” Lieber said. “I’ve never felt unsafe at 3rd Base, but I’ve also never felt super comfortable there.”