Vilseck’s new on-base club means end for once off-limits night spot
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 5, 2007
VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers here will have to drive miles to find a dance hall with a better male-female ratio after the only nightclub in town closed its doors.
Regensburg entrepreneur Wilhelm Von Gunter, who set up Vilseck’s Independence Club in anticipation of the arrival of 3,500 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment last summer, said he pulled the plug on his business last week after almost three months without customers from the unit.
The closure coincides with the opening of a new on-post sports bar in the heart of the 2nd Cav headquarters area that features pool tables, big screen plasma televisions and a clientele composed mostly of soldiers from the all-male unit.
Von Gunter, 29, said the new sports bar is a good idea, but added that he thought the Army forced him out of business in an effort to put off-post problems caused by drunken soldiers out of sight and out of mind.
“In my opinion I think they don’t want a club anymore in Vilseck,” said Von Gunter, adding that soldiers are the ones who will suffer.
His nightclub was the only bar in Vilseck that stayed open after 1 a.m. and, according to Von Gunter, drew in 500 to 600 people on Friday and Saturday nights until October last year. Photos posted on its Web site show soldiers mingling with young German women who traveled from miles around to dance at the club.
A drunken brawl at the club led 2nd Cavalry leaders to declare the Independence Club off limits late last year.
1st Armored Division spokesman Maj. Wayne Marotto, speaking on behalf of 2nd Cavalry, said in an e-mail last week that the club was placed back on-limits on Dec. 20.
But Von Gunter said soldiers from the regiment had not returned and he was forced to close the business a week ago at a loss of 120,000 euros.
“I was waiting for the soldiers to come back but nobody came,” he said. “For me it is over. I’m losing my whole business.”
Last Friday, about 50 2nd Cav soldiers were drinking in the new sports bar along with two female customers. Soldiers interviewed at the bar said they were never told Independence Club was back on limits and they had been traveling to clubs in other towns to meet German women.
Von Gunter said he’d planned to set up a safe and peaceful club outside the front gate of the post at Vilseck.
“I know not every soldier has a car. I tried from the beginning but nobody helped me,” he said.
“I was talking about risk management and working with the MPs. I wanted them to come before we were off-limits but there was nothing,” he said. “After they declared us off limits, the courtesy patrol showed up every night when there were no soldiers in the club.”
Regensburg entrepreneur Wilhelm Von Gunter sits in Vilseck’s deserted Independence Club last weekend. Von Gunter, who set up the club in anticipation of the arrival of 3500 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment last summer, said he pulled the plug on his business last week after almost three months without customers from the unit.
By Seth Robson / S&S