Thursday morning, the owner of a bar in the Lyndale neighborhood filed a lawsuit suit against the City of Minneapolis, alleging discrimination and retaliation by city business inspectors and a senior police commander.
Champion's Bar and Grill, located at the intersection of Blaisdell Avenue South and Lake Street, was the target of a large police sting operation in late 2011 and early 2012 that resulted in charges against 14 drug users and small-time drug dealers.
In the lawsuit, owner Rick Nelson claims that the Minneapolis Police Department's commander initiated the operation and conspired with city license inspectors to target his bar with trumped-up licensing violations. He also claims that he and his staff work diligently to prevent drug deals at the bar or on its property. The drug crime, the lawsuit claims, emanates from a nearby bus stop.
“Although we have been cooperating with the police for decades, they made Champions out to be the bad guy,” Nelson said in a written statement emailed to reporters. “We employ a top-notch security staff and have 14 cameras monitoring the restaurant and bar. We report all suspicious activity to the police, but when we do, they turn around and use records of those 911 calls against us.”
The city has yet to comment on the allegations, but Patch will update this story with this information as soon as it becomes available.
UPDATE 6:30 p.m. 12/6/12:
Thursday afternoon, in an email to Patch City of Minneapolis officials responded to our request for comment.
City Attorney Susan Segal:
When you look at the list of complaints of criminal activity at this establishment, it is clear that the City is right to take enforcement action. There is a documented history of criminal and nuisance activity at this business. The fact that this lawsuit takes aim at City employees is not uncommon—it’s typical for those involved in enforcement to be targeted when they do their jobs. The fact of the matter is that City inspectors must take tough enforcement actions when a business is creating unsafe conditions, and that’s what residents demand of us. The City is resolute in fulfilling its duty to fairly and equitably regulate all licensed businesses to ensure public safety, and that is what has been done in this case.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau:
I can’t discuss the specifics of this lawsuit. However, I have tremendous faith that the command staff and officers in the 5th Precinct, as well as licensing inspectors, do their work with the highest integrity and with an absolute focus on serving the public. I want to be very clear that it’s our responsibility to ensure that businesses are running safe operations and to hold them accountable when they are not. We have a responsibility to the public and neighborhoods to take action to require businesses to correct security and livability problems at their premises.
Stay with Patch for updates.