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The Brief & Turbulent Life of the Cheat Lake Supper Club

The Cheat Lake Supper Club was opened on 3/9/1949 by Benjamin Lane in a building that once housed the Cliff Tavern on Rockley Road overlooking Cheat Lake. Lane brought in the former manager of a reputed mob-affiliated Pittsburgh nightclub, the Ankara, to run the new establishment. The Cheat Lake Supper Club featured two floor shows nightly, promoted itself as “WV’s only Theater Restaurant” and was described in the newspapers by such words as exclusive, lavish, luxurious, plush & swanky (an armed bouncer was stationed at the entrance to ensure that only “acceptable” clientele could enter). During its short existence the club featured on its stage some of the biggest names in the entertainment business. The “Red Man Club”, a casino located in the basement, also attracted many big-time gamblers from as far away as New York, Chicago and Miami.

Trouble started only a few months after opening when a Justice of the Peace and two Constables were arrested and charged with attempting to “shake down” the club owner for $200/month in exchange for protection against raiding the business. The following year, in March of 1950, the club was the target of legitimate gambling and liquor law violation raids on three consecutive weekends.  

The last raid was particularly notable as WV State Police wielded sledge hammers to gain access to the downstairs casino and dropped tear-gas on the more than 300 guests present in the dinner club. “They were just eating supper and watching the floor show when the police tossed tear-gas at them” one person recalled. Some patrons had to receive medical treatment while others booed and stoned the police outside of the nightclub and attempted to overturn patrol cars. The police soon left, according to one patron: “when they saw all the prominent people and the panic they were causing – they got out fast”. A total of 151 complaints were filed against police by guests, the orchestra leader and the show’s chorus girls. The complaints were inexplicably withdrawn five days after the raid.

After the final raid Mr. Lane leased the building out and the club continued to be operated, for very short periods of time, under the names “Cheat Lake Supper Club”, “Leone’s Lake View House” and the “Green Cove”. The property was sold at auction to satisfy debts in 1953 and was purchased by a church, the “Spiritual Life Tabernacle”, later that year. As an indication of just how famous the club had become, the story of the transition from nightclub to church appeared in newspapers across the country.

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