Birmingham to Investigate South's Liquor License

In addition, City Manager Bob Bruner said the city plans to re-evaluate how Class C "quota" liquor licenses are approved.

After a shooting outside prompted anger and anxiety among residents, City Manager Bob Bruner has launched an official investigation of the bar's liquor license.

Bruner said he's directed the City Attorney's Office and the to investigate the number of incidents at South, as well as other restaraunts and bars around the city. City officials will also address the number of times police have made contact with either the restaurant or its patrons.

"(This will) determine whether or not a pattern of patron conduct exists that would warrant a public hearing," Bruner said.

Should a public hearing be needed, the city may request that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) revoke South Bar's liquor license.

In addition, Bruner said the city will also investigate ways to better control Birmingham's liquor licenses in the future.

Police continue to investigate, petition close to 150 signatures

Police Chief Don Studt said his team is still investigating the April 2 incident, in which after a fight erupted outside South after the bar closed at 2 a.m.

After a photo of the woman was released to the media on April 4, the woman turned herself into police. Studt said police are still interviewing witnesses and hope to have their report turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office by the end of the week.

Following the incident, Studt said Birmingham police would also be increasing police patrols downtown. The city's formal investigation — plus the hearing if it's needed — allows the city to take a closer look at South and determine whether there's a problem.

"Seeking revocation has significantly legal consequences for both the city and the licensee, so the City Commission will carefully consider this option with advice from the city attorney," Bruner said.

A request to revoke South Bar's liquor license was initiated by Downtown Publications, publisher of Birmingham's Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield. A day after the shooter turned herself in, the group urging the Birmingham City Commission to challenge South's liquor license with the MLCC.

As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 146 signatures, and ignited a .

In a comment on Patch, Downtown Publications publisher David Hohendorf said he feels his family and magazine staff, both of which are based downtown, are threatened by the violence at South.

"No one else seems to be ready to lead the charge on this issue," he wrote. "Part of our role as a member of the community is to shape public policy, especially when no one else seems to be willing to stick their neck out, so to speak."

Liquor license approval process to come under consideration

In addition, Bruner said the city plans on re-evaluate how it handles Class C "quota" liquor licenses, the kind of liquor license South Bar has.

Class C "quota" licenses are the personal property of their owner and can be transferred from one location to another with city approval. There are currently 16 quota licenses in Birmingham, all of which were approved after 1972, when the move was approved by a ballot measure.

Bruner said the city plans to compare the process of acquiring a quota license to that of acquiring a bistro license, which requires a special land use permit and the licensee to enter into a contract with the city.

"The contract and special land use permit give the city much more control over bistros than we have over the 'quota' licensed establishments," Bruner said. "We plan to investigate options to subject 'quota' licenses to these types of controls in the future. We believe additional controls may be beneficial to both the business community and the community-at-large."

Correction: The wording of this article was changed to reflect that the shooting occurred outside South Bar in the street.

Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 11, 2012 at 11:47 AM
David Hohendorf, how often are you out at 2:30 AM with your family? Are they really creating a threatening environment for you... How do you leave your house the? Isn' it more likely you would be in Kroger, shopping for jewelery at Abbott's or eating dinner at Mitchell's FIsh Market.... all which actually had GUN incidents in their buildings. How could the bar be responsible for a "shoot in the air", which she is claiming to be self defense, after business was closed, down the street from the bar?
Tim Allen April 11, 2012 at 12:03 PM
South's license shouldn't be revoked because of the gun shot. They are right that no one could prevent it. It should be revoked because South is a horrible establishment. Terrible food, no discernible vision for what it wants to be, horrible untrained staff and the clientele is not up to par. Basically it was the brainchild of people who have either never owned restaurants or got this idea from going to too many bad clubs. Shat is for certain is that they have absolutely no taste and class. This is an establishment that does nothing to make Birmingham more upscale OR highlight what makes our community special. It's a nightclub pure and simple....but a really really bad one.
Ron Dwyer April 11, 2012 at 01:18 PM
South is being unfairly targeted due to the stupidity of some patrons. This could have easily happened at Dick O Dows
Colleen Moore April 11, 2012 at 02:25 PM
But it didn't happen at Dick O'Dows. It happened at South. We should get rid of South. It doesn't belong in Birmingham. I hope the City will finally wake up to the menace South is to our community.
Racer Boy April 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
If this last incident was the first serious incident at South then it might be a different story. However, this place has been a problem since it opened. Interesting that SOUTH seems to be the clearing house for patrons with a high "stupidity" level...any explanation for that?
Thomas Hughes April 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
A five hundred person night club business model doesn't work in Birmingham. It's difficult and resourse intense for our police to control hundreds of young patrons with impaired impulse control at closing time. I don't want the city where I live to be "club central" for surrounding communities. Our City Commission created the environment for the Birmingham night club business model, now the Commission and professional administration are accountable for cleaning up the mess.
Alissa Murphy April 11, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Maybe if Dick O'Dows, Streetside, 220, or any of the multitude of other restaurant/bars in this city ended up in the the "crime section" of both the Birmingham Eccentric and The Eagel as often as South and The Hamilton Room (they're practically a staple!), not to mention CNN, you may have a valid point Ron. Check out the police blotter and see how many calls are made to South during and after business hours since they opened due to drunken fights, date rape drugs, stabbings and street fighting, not to mention the gun incident that was a consequence of an altercation that began IN South and then moved outside at closing time. Really!
Alan Stamm April 11, 2012 at 04:59 PM
[ 1st of 2-part comment ] Fair observations, soberly stated. I shared the boot-'em reflex initially and still lean that way. But the part of me that's bothered by recent news is balanced somewhat by a part that thinks it's not automatically bad to be a nightlife destination with 20 movie screens, hip restaurants and bistros, lively clubs, a 24-hour coffeeshop and always-open coney island. Well-behaved patrons from Southfield, Lathrup Village, Redford or anywhere else contribute to our city's economic health and vitality. I'll take them over commercial vacancies. (Yes, of course, "well-behaved" is the slippery part.) "Cool suburbs" that don't lock down at 10 p.m. and welcome diversity gain spinoff value. They attract and retain cutting-edge retailers such as the sneaker/streetwear shops Dbl-Up and REVIVE, now with two sites. They generate employment, parking revenues, regional buzz. [ Continued . . . ]
Alan Stamm April 11, 2012 at 04:59 PM
[ 2nd of 2-part comment ] Not long ago, local economic development concerns focused on competition from Royal Oak and Ferndale -- not just Somerset Collection. Now we're having a "careful what you wish for discussion." South's local owners deserve to be heard as key stakeholders in this discussion. Am I the only one hearing an echo of John Lithgow's character (Rev. Shaw Moore) in the 1984 film 'Footloose,' who condemned "an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be." Perhaps marketing of South Sunday events will be repositioned. Perhaps staffing will increase. Perhaps last call will precede 1:45 a.m. Perhaps more selective door screening or patron removal will change the crowd mix. In other words, South also is "accountable for cleaning up the mess" and should get a good-faith first chance to show whether it can do so. "We are dedicated to being a major part of the solution" says one principal, and they deserve open-mindedness while we await actions. (For the record: I don't know and am not related to South's partners.)
John Doe April 11, 2012 at 05:09 PM
South keeps saying how they had no way in preventing this. In reality though they are the ones who hire the promoters for Sunday night and they realize the unwanted crowds that come because of it. Yet they continued promoting Sunday nights even after the stabbing incident. South might not have been able to prevent the incident over the summer but don't tell me that they didn't have the opportunity to close down on Sundays like all the other nightclubs to keep this beautiful community safe. All in all South could have prevented this and they realized what they were bring to the community every week but put the revenue amount over the safety of their fellow neighbors.
Painful Honesty April 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
So basically nimby? I'm sure birminham residents frequent bars, clubs, and other establishments outside of "their" area but because they're lower class areas problems that may arise are acceptable? I looked up crime in birmingham, all kinds, all over. Armed robberies, assaults, domestics, some by BIRMINGHAM residents. Get off your ignorant high horse...
Wendy Weir April 11, 2012 at 05:17 PM
All I know is all the negative publicity - is going to hurt our property values and keep people from venturing to downtown after dark.
Painful Honesty April 11, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Wow sounds blatantly racist
Courteney Gettel April 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Has anyone looked at Birmingham recently? It's empty. So if you close down South, that is just another abandoned building in Birmingham. Talk about a rise in crime? Especially right there? South has done their best to stop such problems, but any time you put a nightclub ANYWHERE, things like this arise. There are SEVERAL other bars, bistros, etc in Birmingham that have had incidences. It is only because South is considered to be a "high class joint" that people have taken notice. What I am trying to say, is leave South alone. Let the Birmingham cops actually have something to do - be cops. I mean South is right in their back yard. Stepped up patrols and increased Security should cut down on the trouble, but you have to be patient.
Erin Goryl April 11, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I also find it odd that Ted Fuller at Cafe Via who is launching a big attack against South can get away with having a bistro license with a 55 seat max and yet there are 90 seats in there. And there have been 2 assaults there over the last year yet he is not being investigated for what happened IN the restaurant, not outside of it.
Blog Post April 12, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Sticking up for your boss's spouse, I can't blame you.
Victor April 12, 2012 at 07:10 AM
"So if you close down South, that is just another abandoned building in Birmingham." Whats going to happen to that abanoded building? vanadlisism? ill take that all day long over shootings, stabbings, fights, drugs etc. "but any time you put a nightclub ANYWHERE, things like this arise." yea maybe in detroit but not Birmingham "It is only because South is considered to be a "high class joint" " LMFAO!!! NO COMMENT
Victor April 12, 2012 at 07:12 AM
Victor April 12, 2012 at 07:14 AM
Stupid owners who will risk shutting down there bar over a dollar. I think the owners of South knew there time was up a long time ago so they are just trying to milk every last penny they can while they are open.
Victor April 12, 2012 at 07:17 AM
I heard the same thing from someone who worked at South that night
Victor April 12, 2012 at 07:38 AM
Simply put, South dosent care, they shut down there Sunday event last week because they couldn't handle the pressure from the community but they will be up and running this Sunday, now there trying to fool the general public with there whole "live band" hoax. You seen the owners of South blogging on the last article about how there rent is so high and they cant survive in Birmingham without there nightclub. The owners could care less, they fired there GM and Manger and hired there inexperienced wives to run the operations at South, now if that's not blatantly saying, "who cares about this establishment" then i dont know what is, lets cut operating cost, and milk every last penny while we're still running is South's gameplan. South is operating on a "live for today and who cares about tomorrow" mentality. I would like to see South's license revoked only to get the current owners to take a hike and maybe down the road someone with real bar/restaurant experience re-open with a fresh start. No promoters, tough security, kind servers and bartenders, good service, good food, experienced managers, basically the opposite of everything South is currently doing.
J Peter April 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
If it doesn't fail by itself im confident city residents will apply enough pressure to ensure changes occur.
Sal Garmo April 12, 2012 at 08:02 PM
great post
Kyle Morgan April 14, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Great comment Alissa.
Kyle Morgan April 14, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Are you high? Birmingham's occupancy rate is the highest it's been in 20 years.
Dennis T April 15, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Denny T My home is a scant 4 or 5 blocks from South and my office is 2 blocks away. Having lived here for 32 years through the evolution from a sleepy little town to a somewhat sophisticated small city I have encouraged this process through several iterations of change beginning with the urban analysis performed during Mike Wooley's term as Mayor. It has mostly been a successful transformation but as in the movie "A Bridge Too Far" it is time to stop and reflect on where we are. In an earlier commentary one person (whom I mostly agreed with) reflected that to have 500 young men and women packed into a high intensity environment, add liquor and poor impulse control is a recipe for trouble if not disaster. Many of the new Bistro type additions such as Bella Piatta, Cafe Via and of course our long time staples such as 220, Streetside Seafood, Peabody's and others have managed to operate responsible and fun establishments. To put it simply, B'Ham is not built for high energy nightclubs, but rather smaller more responsible venues that know and are capable of operating at a profit while remaining responsible and valued additions to our fair city. Let's not throw the baby out w the bath water, but reflect on ways to keep our growth on a peaceful track. South must and will go, now or later but that won't end the problem without thoughtful leadership.
David Olsen April 21, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Victor - Are you really Ted Fuller or David H from downtown publications? Why so angry? Do you have personal financial gain from South closing? I hear you talk about bad crowds at South and you fear for your life? Gimme a break. A 19 yr old carrying a rifle in the middle of Birmingham is where you should focus your energy and anger. Birmingham has many issues, but South isn't one of them. If you don't like the clientele that attends South on Sunday nights, just stay at home in your fancy pajamas and you'll be just fine.


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