In the spring of 1989, Maurice Malone, with the help of friends Bobby Ligon and Jerome Mongo, took a bold leap in Detroit's cultural scene by transforming a loft space above a Coney Island restaurant on Woodward Avenue into a multifaceted venue, which he named "The U.N.," short for The Underground Nation. This space quickly became a haven for late-night revelers and conversationalists alike, offering an electrifying dance floor and a sprawling bar where Detroiters gathered to socialize over coffee and juice.
The loft soared in popularity, becoming the city's after-midnight destination, where music played and conversations flowed. However, despite its lawful operation, the venue faced unwarranted police raids that cited licensing issues and routinely dispersed patrons.
A friend offered Maurice a different perspective after he suffered these setbacks for a little more than a year, remarking that he was "a big fish in a small pond." The advice was clear: to realize his full potential, Maurice needed a larger stage. With this in mind, in the fall of 1990, Maurice Malone set his sights on the expansive possibilities of New York City, ready to explore the broader horizons that awaited him.
Private club is caught between police, city - Detroit Free Press
By Marian Dozier, Free Press Staff Writer
Three times since the U.N. opened in April 1989, Detroit police have cited the private, after-hours dance club for operating without a license. Twice it has reopened - with the legal blessing of the city — and is set to do so again Friday. What gives? The Underground Nation is falling between the cracks of several city ordinances that govern cabarets, dance halls and clubs. The club was raided early Saturday morning and club owner Maurice Malone, 25, said he was ticketed for operating and maintaining a city business without a license.
But city officials say the fact that the dance club is private, doesn't serve alcohol and stays open until 5 a.m. appears to make it exempt from city ordinances. Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey raised the issue in Monday's council meeting, saying she has asked her staff to work with administration officials to write a new, more inclusive ordinance.
Malone said he, his mother and friends have invested more than $30,000 in the 6,000-square-foot club at 6404 Woodward. He said the police raids have hurt his business.
"I can't see the problem. I tell the police all the time they should be happy there's a place like this where people aren't drinking and beating each other up," said Malone, who said he's lost at least 100 of 400 members.
"They've harassed us. People don't know if we're open or not... Our members have lost interest in coming."
Officers of the 13th (Woodward) Precinct could not be reached for comment. There are four different cabaret licenses issued by the city. With no liquor sales, U.N. falls outside the purview of all four. There's a dance hall license - for rentable halls that don't allow liquor sales — but halls must close at 4 a.m. and be open to the public. Again, the U.N. doesn't fit. Malone finally got a state license in May that classifies the club as a private, nonprofit corporation.
Maurice Malone, owner of the Underground Nation dance club, has been raided three times by police. The club, which doesn't fall into any of the city's licensing categories, recently received a permit from the state.