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.

SEE ALSO: Incoming MPD Chief Janeé Harteau suspended cops based on "rumor and innuendo"

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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17 comments
Ben Bakunin
Ben Bakunin

It's true, they do get harassed, but that is a super sleazy bar.

Shawn Clark
Shawn Clark

it is on the corner of Blaisdale and Lake st its been a problem spot for yrs i am glad to see the city is doing some thing about it

Thomas Zocher
Thomas Zocher

Let's not confuse African Americans with assholes. I don't think they (African Americans) would want to be lumped into one category or type of individual any more than anybody else does. Champions, Gabby's, etc - we are not talking about upstanding African American citizens populating bars and having good drink and food, we are talking about low life black thugs causing problems. Now, of course, not everyone at those establishments is black and not everyone is a thug or low life, but historically those bars have been problematic with disrupting the peace, weapons, drugs, drunk thugs, gang members, and a whole slew of fucking idiots. Do respectable people of any color or creed want to be associated with a lawsuit that seeks to represent "shitty clientele" of problematic venues as "their people"? I wouldn't.

Jessica Ruth
Jessica Ruth

I drive by this place every morning and even at 7:30 am it looks too dangerous to enter. Would NEVER go here.

Lola House
Lola House

This place is awesome ... said no one ever.

Lola House
Lola House

Champions is the shit! You can buy your rocks on the smoke porch, find a trick and fuck him in the bathroom, and pay your pimp at the bar!! Its an all in one package deal!

Oscar
Oscar

Well here we go again. I have nothing against Champions. But if there is consistently trouble at your bar you have a problem on your hands. Whether they are black, white, or candy striped. Its not Champions fault that shady people frequent their bar. If you buy drugs from a guy you just met at the bar you are a complete moron. The entrapment/racist excuses are weak. You will never win this lawsuit and it will cost you plenty in lawyer fee's.

Aymee Williams
Aymee Williams

Been here one time and won't go back, it's pretty damn ghetto to say the least, it has nothing to do with cause it's a black owned bar either! The place has had it's share of problems. The cop's just did a drug bust in the last couple month's there.

Ryan Ojard
Ryan Ojard

This place is a virus to the LynLake neighborhood.

Oscar Quella
Oscar Quella

Damn, Dustin. I wish that one was mine. I'm going to have to file that one away and use it later like it was my own.

Dustin Haning
Dustin Haning

I've never heard of this place but I'm always interested in finding new places to buy crack.

Chris Goyette
Chris Goyette

I doesn't matter who the patrons are of an establishment. If it is a problem that cannot be resolved, then the business should be forced to either relocate, or shut down.

Katherine Clancy-Truskolaski
Katherine Clancy-Truskolaski

I have lived on this block for 7 years, i now take a different route home to avoid sitting at that corners stoplight, there is usually people yelling at eachother, running in between cars to get to the bus, or fighting at the bus stop. I dont care WHAT color the people are. My next-door neighbor hung out there for happy hour 4 days a week, and was just kicked out of our place for selling crack out of our building.

Erin Munn
Erin Munn

The 'racism' claims are bullshit. I know someone who had bought crack down there before- and where did the dealer say to meet? Why, in the bar, of course!! Because he knew it was a 'safe' place for the deal, because the staff wouldn't say anything. Shut the place down!!!

Shawn Gustafson
Shawn Gustafson

It is what it is, If its a troubled place shut it down , that place would not be considered trouble. If there was not bad things happening there.

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