BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An investigation that began in early January came to a head during the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 9, when agents raided Vegas Vape Lounge and Unwine Paint Bar on Coursey Boulevard in Baton Rouge.
Law enforcement officials reported receiving numerous complaints that Unwine Paint Bar was acting as a bar and strip club.
Detectives claim they observed people loitering in the parking lot using alcohol and drugs, and large amounts of cash in large bills being exchanged for $1.
Undercover agents claimed they were told they can smoke marijuana at Unwine Paint Bar and that dancers would get naked in the VIP area for an additional fee.
At one point, detectives reported receiving two dances in the VIP area of the paint bar where a dancer was nude, then witnessing a dancer expose her breasts on a separate date.
Sunday morning, operators for both businesses were taken into custody, according to officials.
Employees at both businesses were cited and all alcohol and tobacco products were seized, officials said.
Additionally, law enforcement officials seized four handguns, 1 oz of marijuana, 1 g of heroin, and 1 g of cocaine.
Demond Eames, the operator of Vegas Vape, says his business was targeted by agents.
“I’ve been here three or four years with no problems until recently,” Eames said. “Just think about it, until recent, then I go to jail for stuff that don’t have anything to do with me.”
Eames says his tobacco permit expired at the end of 2019 and he was in the process of getting a new one at the time of the raid.
“At the end of the day, other people didn’t give us time to get our business in order when they know we were trying to get it in order because of the previous cases that I have,” he said. "I just feel like the way the system is set up, if you’re trying, they should give you a chance. They should call off their dogs and say, ‘Hold up, let’s see what they’re going to do.’”
As far as the drug and weapon charges from the raid, Eames says anyone who was arrested for those charges was outside at the time and he had nothing to do with them.
“Either the customers had it on them out in the car or maybe next door, but me, as the money, I don’t deal with no kind of drugs. It’s over with a long time ago,” he said.
He also made sure to separate himself from the paint bar next door.
“You can walk into my spot and you will not see no stripper pole. The only thing you’ll see is a dance floor and some nice furniture in there for people to come in, smoke some hookah, and have a nice time,” he said. “That’s the only thing you’re going to see in my spot.”
He did say he plans to reopen, but did not have a timeline on when that might happen. He also says he’s working on getting his tobacco permit back.
“I’m trying to make an honest living and the only thing I have to ask the ATF is why not give me a chance to have a tobacco license if I’m not a felon?” he said. “What I done to y’all so bad personally that you can’t give me a tobacco license?”
The following arrests were reported from the raid:
- Demond Eames, 46, was arrested. Eames was identified by agents as the operator of Vegas Vape. He faces the following charges: Operation without a permit (high content), operation without a permit (low content), general requirements (tobacco permit)
- Alesia Gales, 44, was arrested. Gales was identified by agents as the operator of the nearby Unwine Paint Bar on Coursey Boulevard. She is charged with the following: Operation without a permit (high content) - 2 counts
- Dasbyn Edwards, 22: Illegal carrying of weapons (handgun) and possession of marijuana
- Quintin Titus, 24: Possession of a stolen firearm, possession of marijuana, and fugitive out of Baker
- Brandon Sprowl, 28: Resisting an officer
- Aaliyah Brown, 19: Possession of marijuana
- Patrick Quinones, 44: Illegal carrying of weapons (handgun)
- Robert Claiborne, 25: Bench warrant
- Kiara Phillips, 30: Bench warrant
- Jonathan Dunn, 37: Bench warrant
- Darren Hasbert, 25: Bench warrant
- Carl Patterson, 39: Open container