The Birmingham City Commission will have more time to think about revoking South Bar's liquor license, after a last-minute memo prompted commissioners to postpone a public hearing on the issue Monday night.
City commissioners were originally scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday night, during which they would consider asking the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) to revoke South Bar's liquor license after a series of public safety incidents at the former downtown bar and restaurant.
After a second shooting by bar patrons on July 16, the two-year-old bar closed its doors the next day. The first shooting occured on April 2, when a Redford woman discharged a gun in the midst of a fight outside Einstein Bros Bagels.
However, before the public hearing could begin Monday night, South's attorney Kelly Allen requested the hearing be postponed so that commissioners could thoroghly read a new memo submitted to them late last week.
Attorney: liquor license in escrow, landlord agrees to conditions for new tenants
According to Allen, the liquor license is owned by Woodward Tap, Inc., which is co-owned by South Bar's former owners Steve Puertas and Joseph Spadafore.
However, Allen said the original liquor license stipulated that if South Bar defaulted on its lease, the license would be transferred to James Nicholas Enterprises, an organization owned by the building's landlord, Jim Esshaki.
After the shooting and subsequent closing of South, Allen — who also represents Esshaki at James Nicholas Enterprises — said Esshaki filed eviction proceedings in 48th District Court.
In addition, since South defaulted on its lease, the liquor license went into escrow as of Aug. 9. On that date, Allen the license also began the transfer process from Woodward Tap to James Nicholas Enterprises.
According to Allen, even though her clients want the public hearing postponed, South Bar isn't coming back.
"South is done," she said. "It wasn't an easy decision but it was the right decision, in my opinion."
Allen said Esshaki is currently maintaning and marketing the space, and "taking a beating financially," she added. She said Esshaki currently recieves three to four callers interested in the space per day.
Should the city decide not to revoke the license, Allen said Esshaki would move forward on bringing in a new tenant under the following conditions:
- South Bar would never re-open
- Any new business would not be allowed to operate a nightclub
- Any new business would be subject to a Special Land Use Permit (SLUP)
- The city can divide the lease — or, divide up the space — if it so chooses
- Any new business that wants an entertainment or dance permit would have to come before the city
"We are asking for a deep breath here," said Allen.
Postponing the issue a 'clever ploy,' resident says
City commissioners were in favor of caution Monday night, agreeing to postpone the public hearing to Aug. 27 so as to have more time to go over Allen's memo and requests.
"Ultimately, it might be a better deal for the city (if we postpone)," said Commissioner Gordon Rinschler. "We need time to digest a very complicated situation."
"I don't see the hurry in rushing the issue," City Manager Bob Bruner added. "South isn't going to re-open."
Commissioner Scott Moore said he's willing to postpone, but he is anxious to close this matter for good.
"All of us are reluctant to postpone this matter. We're residents and we've been living this too," Moore said. "Because health, safety and welfare trumps private interests at every pont."
Still, various residents at the meeting Monday were disappointed the issue was postponed. Resident and retired educator Mary Ryan Taras said postponing the hearing to Aug. 27 — the week of Labor Day — was a "clever ploy."
"We have spoken to this issue," she said. "We don't want another establishment here. We want (the liquor license) revoked."