Champions Sports Bar sues Mpls, accuses city of trying to drive "black bars" out of business

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Champions is seeking up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from the city.
Champions Sports Bar and Grill, located near Lake and Nicollet in Minneapolis's Lyndale neighborhood, alleges the city -- motivated by a desire to drive "establishments which cater to the African American community" out of business -- has been unlawfully harassing the bar and its ownership for the better part of two years.

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In a lawsuit, Champions seeks up to hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city for retaliation, defamation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and violation of due process, among other claims.

Citing controversy and litigation surrounding the now-closed Gabby's Saloon and Eatery's liquor license, Champions' lawsuit accuses the city of having "an established history, custom, policy, and practice of violating the due process rights of establishments which cater to the African American community by attempting to impose unnecessary liquor license conditions on those establishments in an attempt to drive those establishments out of business."

Champions' story begins in the spring of 2011. From the lawsuit (all subsequent blockquotes taken directly from Champions' court filing):
In the Spring of 2011 [Champions owner Rick] Nelson became concerned that the bus stop on the corner of West Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue was being used by drug dealers and gang members. In June 2011, Nelson raised his concerns at a meeting of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association Crime Prevention Meeting. Nelson was told to bring the issue to the attention of Minneapolis City Council Member Meg Tuthill.
But MPD Fifth Precinct Commander Matt Clark was allegedly none too happy when he found out about Nelson raising his concerns to Tuthill:
When Clark was made aware of Nelson's concerns, he became enraged that a business was complaining about crime in his Precinct to a Council Member. Clark initiated a plan to retaliate against Nelson, Champions, and the African American patrons Champions serves...

Clark ordered City police officers under his command to conduct an undercover "Sting" operation at the corner and [sic] West Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue and do everything possible to link any criminal activity detected to Champions.
The alleged "sting" operation came to fruition last March, when police charged 14 people in connection with alleged crack cocaine dealing at the bar. At the time, Commander Clark said: "When incidents of narcotics trafficking surrounding a particular business are reported to us again and again we are compelled to use whatever means the law allows to stop this activity."

But Nelson, citing the fact that in 2007 Champions was a finalist for a national "Restaurant Neighbor" award because staff helped prevent more than 30 drug deals in the area and gave out $2,000 in rewards to those reporting illegal activity, claims the notion his bar and restaurant is a drug den is completely false.
Champions is not a hub for trouble; rather the bus stop at West Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue [is]...

[Commander] Clark also said that Champions is a "haven for crack cocaine dealing." This statement is also patently false. Clark made these and other false statements regarding Champions out of malice, as his goal was to retaliate against Champions for complaining about crime in his precinct to a City Council member.
The lawsuit also notes that out of the 14 people charged in connection with the March sting, only two were successfully prosecuted.

(For more, click to page two.)


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