City Commission Delays South Bar's Liquor License Revocation Hearing

A new memo from Woodward Tap's attorney convinces the Birmingham City Commission to delay a public hearing on the issue to Aug. 27.

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 , 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 . The first shooting occured on April 2, when a in the midst of a fight outside .

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."

Greg Thrasher August 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Smart move by all parties clearly the taxpayers in the city deserve better than another empty building. Business growth in the city creates many good outcomes from employment to tax revenues and leisure options for residents . Special interests groups do not speak for the majority of the residents. I support more venues including those that serve beverages. The very notion that the negative behavior of a few people should prevent and contaminate growth and the city's business model is insane and backward city planning.
Colleen Moore August 14, 2012 at 02:07 PM
The City Commission should not allow Esshaki, Allen and Spadafore and Puertas to make fools of them yet again. None of these people are to be trusted. It is now clear that the only reason the owners of South closed the bar was to try to get away with selling their liquor license -- it had nothing to do with caring about safety. Their irresponsible and dishonest behavior should not be rewarded by the city. If the city fails to revoke this liquor license it will send the following messages: 1) it's OK to lie to the Commission about your business plan (which South did when it sold itself as a Mexican restaurant with sports bar feel); 2) the Commission is not serious about protecting the safety of Birmingham residents; 3) the Commission is not serious about maintaining Birmingham's reputation as a desirable place for families to live and raise children or as an upscale dining destination; 4) the Commission is weak-willed and any shady business owner with a decent lawyer can run roughshod over the wishes of the voters. The choice to delay the hearing was a mistake. The Commission should not compound its error by failing to revoke the liquor license.
R Jeppostol August 14, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Yes the spat of shootings and violence were disenchanting and frightening, but certainly you can't blame the owners for that? I don't care who they had promote or who they marketed to, it is simply impossible to hold them responsible for someone else's decision to fire a gun in public. They are already going through a tough time, having recently shut down their business. Why do people feel the need to add insult to injury over and over.
Greg Thrasher August 14, 2012 at 02:28 PM
The Commissioners are elected to promote the economic welfare of the city not the themes of a selective few.. Revoking this license is not a good fiscal posture for the city,
LC Dyle August 14, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I think the issues are being confused here. SOUTH is closed. The problem(s) created there have now been nullified. It was poorly managed on several levels, which ultimately resulted in its demise. Esshaki wants the license as collateral against the lost lease revenue (a class "A" liquor license is worth $100K or more). As the landlord, he was responsible ultimately for what occurred at / on his property or as a result of tenant's actions. He should NOT "be made whole" by receiving the license through the default of the lease. He should feel some financial pain along with the irresponsible owners of SOUTH. If he is "taking a beating financially," then it was only as a result of his own failure as a responsible property owner. So be it. They all blew it !! The city is smart to delay the hearing, in order to gain more facts. Since no liquor is being sold under that license, no one is profiting by the delay. The reality is that if the city revokes the license in haste, it becomes an obstacle to regain it back from the LCC for a worthy / legitimate establishment that may wish to come into Birmingham to open and be a responsible business owner. I would like to see the license retained by the city, and not be a source of profit for the failed Esshaki / Puertas / Spadefore venture.
Greg Thrasher August 14, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The owners of any establishment should not be punished by the behaviors of others. Criminal incidents have occurred in churches as well as police stations and even wholesome venues on tree lined streets with flags on front porches. One hopes the city acts in good faith. I hope the commissioners not
Greg Thrasher August 14, 2012 at 07:05 PM
fall to the hollow streams of false morality and decorum .
Thomas Hughes August 14, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I assume that this means that in your self proclaimed "24/7 jig as a public activist", you will be turning your activist attention to a repeal of the Michigan Dram Shop Act.
Greg Thrasher August 15, 2012 at 04:50 PM
@Thomas, I am amazed with the volume of people who are so obessed with my public activism I must be doing something right..lol,lol,lol BTW Thomas I don't drink liquor nor have I ever been intoxicated in my entire adult life once many moons ago when I was a young kid I saw a dram of moonshine on the table of our family priest...Boy did I get dizzy....lol,lol,lol


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