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Sign Promoting Band Named 'Free Beer' Leads to Police Citation for South

Alleged liquor law violation reported to state authorities. Birmingham bar accuses city of selective 'targeting.'

Middle-age rockers call their band Free Beer to be amusing, but the didn't smile when that name was displayed outside .

There's no free beer at a licensed business in Michigan and South is accused of breaking a law that prohibits restaurants and bars from giving away alcoholic drinks.

"It's actually funny, but just not to us," said South co-owner Steve Puertas, whose plastic folding sign promoted the April 12 entertainment. After touting 29 plasma-screen TVs, the last three lines said: "LIVE MUSIC THURS FREE BEER."    

It's the latest in a series of public embarrassments for the South Old Woodward bar and nightclub, which is having a rough spring:

  • City officials and residents voice concerns about disturbances inside and outside South, including by a 29-year-old Redford woman who had just left the club.
  • last week to "determine whether or not a pattern of patron conduct exists that would warrant a public hearing" about the bar's liquor license.
  • An online petition has support from 194 people seeking a review of South's liquor license.
  • Weekend valet service there and at two other clubs , rather than at 2 a.m.

Police Chief Don Studt called South's attorney before the latest enforcement action, according to a case report his department gave to Patch.

Kelly Allen, the lawyer, "informed Chief Studt that the sign was advertising the name of the band that was playing at the bar," said the report's two-page narrative portion. "Ms. Allen informed the Chief that it was never the intention of South Bar to offer free beer."

'Targeting individual businesses'

According to South general manager Bethany Spadafore, "as soon as we were notified that the city had a concern about the sign, we immediately removed it." Spadafore, whose husband Joe is a co-owner, responded to quuestions by email Wednesday.

"The city is not looking at the bigger problems facing Birmingham's ," said Spadafore, a 36-year-old Birmingham resident. "It is time that the city stop reacting and start working with the business community, including the and others, in identifying the problem and talking about solutions — rather than targeting individual businesses like ours."

Deputy Chief Mark Clemence wrote in the complaint that he sent two officers to photograph the sign after receiving "information via email from a man by the name of David Edwards," who attached "two pictures of the sign." Those images and three from police are in the case file.

Shortly before Officers Kate Long and Scott Grams visited South with a camera the morning of April 11, two Patch readers commented about what they believed was no-cost beer.

"South is giving away FREE BEER this Thursday nite, as advertised on a big sandwich board sign that is on the outside steps of the bar," posted a reader using the name Lois Washington. "It doesn't sound like giving away FREE BEER is part of the solution." Another person, identified as D. Jones, added: "The sign was noticed yesterday and photographed this morning."

'Vigorous' defense planned

Allen told Birmingham Patch on Wednesday that her client "had absolutely no intent to violate any city ordinance or rule of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission." The Bloomfield Hills attorney, a liquor licensing specialist, added: "South will vigorously defend any administrative action" brought by Lansing regulators.

Free Beer guitarist Jim Edelman of Salem Township, a TV producer and former Clear Channel national sales manager, is surprised his group's name provoked legal trouble.

"This is a first" for the band founded in 1993, he said. "It's never come up, and we've had our name on marquee signs."

Edelman, a former Bloomfield Hills resident, acknowledged "some bars have put 'live band' after the band name" as a way to avoid confusion."

He added: "We're five guys nearing 50 with professional day jobs — two engineers and three ad guys. We're extremely bummed because South is a fun place to play." 

Free Beer keyboardist Scott Brown and drummer Tom Daldin are graduates who grew up in Birmingham.

In his April 11 violation notice, Clemence said: "Any person looking at the sign would be led to the conclusion that the bar was offering 'free beer' in terms of not charging money for an alcoholic beverage (beer). ... The promotion of offering 'free beer' could certainly encourage excessive alcohol consumption."

Zoning citation also issued

Police didn't stop there. "The sandwich sign itself ... was a violation of the City of Birmingham's zoning ordinance," Clemence said in his report's last paragraph. "South Bar will be cited by the City of Birmingham Code Enforcement officer."

More is involved than administrative hearings and potential fines. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission receives the violation accusations, which could jeopardize the bar's state license to serve alcohol.     

"This is a very serious issue which we are serious about resolving," general manager Spadafore said.

Addressing the zoning citation, she added: "The fact is that South Bar asked the city if it could display a sandwich board sign last year and took the City's guidance about where to place the sign. The sign itself has been up many times without complaint."

The co-owner's wife also takes aim at the publisher of Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield, which posted the anti-South petition at Change.org.

"It is time that ... Downtown (Publications) stop using its publication to selectively target an established business like ours and focus on finding solutions," Spadafore said.

Free Beer is booked at South again April 28 for a Saturday night show that won't be promoted with a sign.

Before the city citations, Edelman joked on his band's Facebook page about comments criticizing South's presumed beer giveaway. "We're considering a name change to Cheap Prostitutes," he posted April 11. "That ought to cause a few embolisms."  

Sal Garmo April 21, 2012 at 09:34 PM
2 events in 2 years that made headlines, what about all the other crap that didnt make the headlines, guess well have to go to the BPD to find out all of the other crimes that happen at South
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 21, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Sal... behind every action there is motivation. You said it yourself on this very page
Tom April 21, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Hey Sal what bar did you own? I would like to know.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 21, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Sal please do... and when you do, please check the police incidents on all the locations with liquor licenses in Birmingham... restaurants, bistros and clubs. No one said there wasn't any problems. But none headline worthy apparently ... fairness is all one can ask. A personal attack of one establishment when you and I both know all bars deal with issues is the question at hand... What is the motivation. Why would South get treated differently?
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Great post Kim! Realizing that 8 more hours of police presence a week would be beneficial for the staff and patrons of all the bars/restaurants in the city.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 21, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I hear crickets... aren't these posts are for open conversation. Talking about solutions. Discussing facts. Sal and Steve like to post what they "hear" but don't like answering simple questions. I guess the picture is okay now and Sal doesn't own a bar... or maybe he is worried his bar isn't perfect either!?
Alan Stamm April 21, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Sal, in response to your point about "all the other crap that didn't make the headlines," here's a government penalty worth notice even though it doesn't involve a weapon, fight, arrest or South: Fleming Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar was fined $500 on March 5, 2012 by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission because server Timothy Beckley didn't ask an 18-year-old Birmingham Police decoy for an ID before giving her an alcoholic beverage last Dec. 28, according to a state document posted online. Less serious than violence, obviously. Yet, who among us wants *any* local restaurant/bar serving minors . . . who may be able to order more than one . . . and who may be driving later. Incidentally, that violation occurred on a Friday evening three days before New Year's Eve. So yes, alarming stuff happens that doesn't make headlines . . . and sometimes it's four blocks up Old Woodward from South. Just sayin'.
Tom April 21, 2012 at 11:42 PM
I like Alan. I bet three weeks ago he hated south, but now I think he is seeing all the facts. Alan you should hang out at South during the hoops season.....I saw Derrick Coleman in there watching Syracuse one day. I see that you are big fan of syracuse hoops.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 12:05 AM
BRITTANY If necessary... sometimes you have to repeat yourself if people can't hear or won't listen. Do you know what a smart phone is!? Well, I finally got one! And I can post whenever I like. Regarding my schedule and if I have a life? Yes. No boyfriend, since haven't meet the right one, but I don't need one to have a life. Since you asked, I had breakfast with Catherine this morning at 9 AM. Then went to the Tigers game with Erin, Ryan and Scott. Crappy game sorry to say. Then grocery shopping... For tomorrow in case you are concerned, brunch at 11 with Pat, Tracy, Robyn, Cara, Mike, Erin and Rhi... and then family dinner, my dad turned 85 yesterday. I have been going to South since they opened... and I will continue to go, But, since I don't have kids I typically hang out with other single people with out kids, we seem to have more time to enjoy life. Hope you do too!
Tom April 22, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Thats awesome.....Brittany now you are stephanie. This is a fun game you play, How is D Jones and Lois Washington.....I cant wait till they come out and play.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Stephanie is NOT Brittany... Stephanie supports South. Brittany thinks I need to get a boyfriend and doesn't know the facts.
Tom April 22, 2012 at 12:23 AM
No Britanny changed her name to Stephanie....Stephanie P. I know who you are. I just dont know if Brittany McManus is stephanie or D Jones, or Lois Washington. But she didnt realize even though Brittnay changed her name to Stephanie all of her comments from the past two weeks that were under brittany are under her new name stephanie.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I see Tom... Good catch.... Do I know you!? Brittany, that is quite clever. Guess I will change my name to Brittany! Funny stuff. It is a nice name Brittany. Not sure I want to share it with you though, you don't seem very friendly. You, Karen, Sal, Steve, why not stop in Saturday to hear Free Beer! Maybe you can take a picture with the sock monkey too!
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Brittany, I am guessing you are the kid in this group. But, thanks! I always have fun!
Tom April 22, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Stephanie or Birttany......say hi to len and david for me.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Wow.... so interesting... all of the Brittany/Stephanie remarks have been removed. Remember what Don Mannis wrote on April 16th.... "don mannis: 9:29 am on Monday, April 16, 2012 I have been sitting back and watching this entire topic for a few weeks now, I can't help but notice the similarities in the overall attitude of these posts, also the exact same punctuation, use of CAPS and "quotes" Alan Stamm, I think you are wasting your time resoponding to these posts as I believe "Blog Post", "Brittany", Lois" and several others are actually the same person, see some of us mart folks, can do this too :) In the end it will be "FOLLOW THE MONEY" some very unproffesional- "PROFESSIONALS" are actually stirring this because thay have "MOTIVES" Unfortunately the internet is a wonderfull thing and even when you think your anonymous, every thing you put here is recorded, deep in the ip headers of every message, text and everything you do on here is your true identity! We need to shut down the farmers market also if thier giving away "free beer" You would think people would check facts before they post such a stupid thing I would be embarrassed to have made such an error.....lol pathetic"
Brian Shanebrook April 22, 2012 at 03:35 PM
As a member of the band "Priceless" playing April 27th at Memories lounge in Brighton, Mich, we often kicked the Free Beer name around, as far back as 1986. We thought it would really be an attention grabber. Apparently we were more than correct. I also played in a band called No One, which we found a bit detrimental on a marqee..."Appearing tonite No One"
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 05:36 PM
It just gets more interesting.. wonder why Tom's last comment to Brittany/Stephanie was removed? You realize we have emails of the messages. Tom also commented on Sign Promoting Band Named 'Free Beer' Leads to Police Citation for South. "Stephanie or Birttany......say hi to len and david for me." I guess you didn't want to say hi to len or david for Tom?!
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 22, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Trying the link again: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150503738080233.369690.50424660232&type=3
cindy walker April 23, 2012 at 04:28 AM
South will be gone .Plain and simple. Birmingham is birmingham for a reason. We are not royal oak. The local police police can easily make this place a living hell. Whats next. A strip club??
Laura Houser (Editor) April 23, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Two comments have been deleted because they violated Patch's Terms of Service. Please folks, frank discussion of the issue at hand is encouraged, but attacks on other posters will not be tolerated. Comments need to be civil.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Brittany You don't state the facts. I wish I were a know it all, then I would understand why you are so angry, why you attack people and lie about the facts. I also would know who you are, since you are hiding. Lies make people hide. I guess we have to re-cap. The fork incident with the Edwards entourage last year, two men arrested. The Birmingham shooting incident, she was arrested, charged with a misdemeanor. Why do you insist on making up stories? There has never been a shooting at South. Unless you were talking about a photo shoot!? Individuals are responsible for their own behavior, not a building or business. Otherwise, a few post offices, HS schools and colleges would be closed sad to say. All business involves risk, a bar increases that risk. Why ALL clubs and bars have bouncers, make sense? Also, I said South is the perfect place "I can go hear bands and dance and not be surrounded by 21 year olds like in Royal Oak" Never mentioned a bar, Sal did. Most bars don't hire bands for the 30 and over crowd, and I am way over 30. Magic Bus, Free Beer, Good Gravy, Fifty Amp Fuse all play music that caters to an older crowd. Your true colors are showing. It would be hard for me to live in your world of judgement, it seems to create a really narrow vision.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Why was her question/comment from Brittany still on the site, but not my reply? I was just replying. Please remove her question/attack if you remove my reply. Brittany, welcome back! Well.... one only knows who you are, since you don't use your real name. You seem to have enough time to research all about me and my business, as well as our events. Who doesn't have a life? Me or you? I am wondering, why did you delete all your comments? What are you concerned about? Nice to see you finally admitted South is a good place. But no one needs to hire me to tell others I like South, it is common knowledge it is my preferred place to hear live music! If you were my friend you would see the band posts and invites in my timeline. In regards to my time, I am a really good multitask-er. So, I will fit one in when I find the right one, I won't settle for less. Did you? The single mingles are actually for everyone, we don't discriminate based on marital status. We call them happy hours! Check out the pictures from our last one at South in January . The link was left on above. We will be there May 11th too! If you aren't busy please join us! And Brittany, you might be the biggest moron, when you changed your name to mine yesterday. Sorry your plan backfired.
don mannis April 23, 2012 at 05:30 PM
"and the element it brings to my city, my hometown, it just needs to go away, or change." Why don't some of you residents just put up a sign that really says what you mean... Come on down and shop at our fancy shops all day you can spend money here all day if you like but please if your black , hispanic , mexian or indian please leave by the time it gets dark, A lot of these posts by the "residents" all seem to have this dark cloud over them. well I have news for you, you dont get to pick who comes in and who comes out as you see fit by your profiling. The sign thing is joke, NO ONE went into the bar and recieved a "free beer" there was no violation, some of you are going on and on in what seems an endless discussion of these piddly bs things while your kids are getting arrested for hanging out downtown smoking weed, your schools are beeing taken over by grafitti and your own damn kids are getting in trouble and making the news every other day, they will soon be the ones that are starting the trouble out here. the ones that are spearheading this and willing to stand up at the city meeting to ask something be done are the ones to blame, its been stated by several others on here as well. This entire thing in my opinion is motivated by one thing....MONEY
M.E. Johnson April 24, 2012 at 12:42 AM
If you do your timesheet we will give you free beer (and soda too): http://youtu.be/WDbiyWlKhlM via @youtube
Blog Post April 25, 2012 at 01:10 AM
So this is the "being part of the solution" we heard about? ( i.e. http://birmingham.patch.com/articles/south-owners-ask-to-be-part-of-the-solution-after-gunshot-incident ). I don't have to say anything else. Keep posting here, and do nothing at the club, because nothing can be done there of course because "stuff just happens ya know" Next time something happens, the question will be asked "What measures did you take after last time?". Steve's answer : "Nothing - but I did have friends and relatives post on Patch a lot, that must count for something right?". No, it will not.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 25, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Blog Post, I am confused. Nothing happened at the club. The staff at South did their job. Just another successful evening in a high risk business. Funny, you keep posting on the patch, so you must think it has some value. Maybe the citizens of your city should ask where the police are? Why are they part of budget cuts when crime is evident in Birmingham at Krogers, banks, jewelry stores, Mitchell's, etc. Why Birmingham has had 10 gun related incidents recently? MOST during the day. Maybe we should address gun control? Or why people treat each other with disrespect? The issues are societal issue. Are they not?! The attack on one business where nothing happened is beyond humorous! Please...we know you have an agenda.
Blog Post April 25, 2012 at 03:05 AM
"Nothing happened at the club. The staff at South did their job". So what was that link I posted referring to? You know, the "part of the solution" story. Here it is again in case you are slow ( http://birmingham.patch.com/articles/south-owners-ask-to-be-part-of-the-solution-after-gunshot-incident ). I do have an agenda, my agenda is my neighborhood. (Not your neighborhood of course - you don't live here, just like Dianne H, Dan H, Dani Walsh, Don Manning, Mike R. etc. etc. etc. ). So what have you done? What is your part of the solution? What steps are being taken? Please try to answer the question and not try to imply racism or conduct personal attacks like your cronies. Remember, at the future city meetings on this matter - no one is going to care what people in Rochester Hills, Bloomfield Hills or Clarkston think, they are going to care what people like me - actual Birmingham homeowner and resident - think.
Stephanie P. SOUTH supporter! April 25, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Part of the solution in the City. Blog Post, your city is not perfect. See, Beth is a resident, so she can speak about the issues in the city of Birmingham. So it is her neighborhood. What am I doing, I continue to enjoy the live bands at South like I have for 2 years. I continue to enjoy hanging out with a crowd who average age is 30 and up when listening to Free Beer, Magic Bus, Good Gravy and Fifty Amp Fuse. I continue to enjoy eating dinner with friends and having business meetings on the patio. I continue to be open minded and realize that not all people have common sense. I continue to hope that the facts will be spoken of. I continue to think that all of us are adults an personal responsibility should be the issue. I continue to wonder why some of the posts where so vicious and mean, especially when directed to me personally. I continue to hope that others will have a less narrow vision and see the real issues in the city. Steve and Sal posts have spoken clearly about what they see as their concern. I do speak clearly. I have been patient. I have not attacked and I speak the facts, why my posts are still here and several others have been removed. Why can't you say your name Blog Post? Why hide your identity if you believe what you say is truthful?
Blog Post July 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Ahem... care to comment now?

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