Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The City of Minneapolis is being sued by a business owner who claims city workers abused their power and tried to shut them down.
Champions Saloon and Eatery is in south Minneapolis on West Lake Street. Rick Nelson’s attorney, Ed Matthews, said Nelson feels he and his business has been unfairly targeted and harassed by Minneapolis Police.
It all stems from a drug bust that happened earlier this year where police say undercover officers bought crack in big drug deals on several occasions at Champions and at the bus stop right outside the bar. Police arrested as many as 14 people in that bust.
Nelson’s lawyer said investigators damaged the bar’s reputation by calling it a “hub for trouble” and a “haven for crack cocaine dealers.” They say Nelson was the one who originally alerted them to the suspicious activity that was happening outside of the bar.
Since the drug bust, Matthews said the city of Minneapolis has been trying to take the liquor license away from the bar.
“He’s worked here for decades. He has worked his way from a bouncer to a bartender to a manager and now to an owner and this is what he has, this is his livelihood. The city is threatening to take this away from him for no good reason,” said Matthews.
Matthews said Nelson’s business has lost tens of thousands of dollars because of this. Matthews also said up until this issue, Nelson had a very good working relationship with the city of Minneapolis and with the Minneapolis Police Department.
City officials reviewed the complaint and responded Thursday.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said the list of complaints of criminal activity at the bar make it clear that “the city is right to take enforcement action.”
“There is a documented history of criminal and nuisance activity at this business,” Segal said in a statement. “The fact that this lawsuit takes aim at City employees is not uncommon — it’s typical for those involved in enforcement to be targeted when they do their jobs.”
In 2006 and 2007, The bar’s owner agreed to liquor license suspensions and to paying thousands of dollars in fines after there had been documented cases of illegal drug activity, city officials said. In October of this year, the city gave the bar a notice based on evidence that continued criminal and nuisance activity was still occurring at Champions.