Ann Arbor files lawsuit to close The Fifth Quarter after problems persist at downtown bar
Paula Gardner | AnnArbor.com
But with calls for police service as of late October running at twice the number recorded in all of 2009, Ann Arbor officials filed a lawsuit this month against the business and the owners of the building that houses it at 210 S. Fifth Ave.
The city’s request: Declare the bar a public nuisance and close it, or appoint a receiver who can run it without putting the public in danger.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 4 in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, calls the bar a public nuisance “based on the inordinate number and serious nature of calls for police service.”
Ann Arbor officials have been monitoring the situation at the bar since spring, and on May 28 the city sent a letter to the defendants in the case. They include Jeff Starman and Francis Clark, members of 210 South Fifth Avenue LLC, which owns the building; and Starman and Andrus McDonald, representing ownership of Legends Nightclub, the entity that has owned the bar operation since it opened in 2007.
That letter was followed by a meeting on June 10 among Ann Arbor Police Department Chief Barnett Jones and Deputy Chief John Seto, Starman and McDonald.
At that meeting, according to the lawsuit, Starman and McDonald “acknowledged that they needed to take steps to address the issues.”
The city asked the pair to:
â€¢ Get rid of bouncers that were too aggressive. â€¢ Institute staff training to monitor for over-intoxication. â€¢ Discontinue Sunday night events.
But after that meeting, “problems at the Fifth Quarter continued and worsened through summer and this fall.”
As of Oct. 25, police had responded to 89 calls for service at the bar, compared to 48 for the full year of 2009.
In asking for the shutdown or receivership, the city says, “The defendants have shown no intent or ability to operate The Fifth Quarter in a responsible manner.”
The lawsuit detailed what it called “large-scale incidents” that threatened the safety of the entire city due to the number of officers called to restore order to the club and the area immediately outside of it.
The incidents include:
â€¢ Dec. 31, 2009: Police closed the bar because of the people gathered on the sidewalks, fghts inside and outside the bar and the crowd hindering efforts to help a woman who’d been assaulted. â€¢ July 19: Police closed the bar and a portion of South Fifth Avenue after large crowds were fighting inside the bar and nearby. â€¢ July 24: Police closed the bar after fights on the sidewalk outside. In addition, “officers had difficulty walking through the bar due to the size of the crowd and numerous broken bottles littering the floor.” â€¢ Oct. 18: Officers were stationed at the bar at closing time but were unable to prevent the crowd of about 250 from spilling into South Fifth Avenue. â€¢ Oct. 25: A week later, Ann Arbor police asked other agencies to join them at closing time, but the group of 20 officers didn’t prevent more fights.
In addition, after a lawsuit was filed in November 2009 by a patron who said a bouncer assaulted him inside the bar, nine more complaints came into the city that allege assaults or injuries at the hands of bouncers at The Fifth Quarter, according to the lawsuit.
Five incidents of over-serving alcohol also were listed in the lawsuit, including one on July 24 when two people were found unconscious in the alley near the bar.
Neither city attorneys nor Starman returned calls seeking comment.
Additional incidents at the bar include an assault at the club on Oct. 11, in which an 18-year-old lost vision in an eye after being struck with a beer bottle.
Starman and Clark bought the building — the former Ann Arbor 1 & 2 movie theater — in 2006, according to city records. A purchase price was not available, but the previous owner had paid $1.5 million for it in 2001.
The building, which has offices on the second floor above the bar, is assessed at $2.16 million.
According to county records, Clark and Starman owe $149,199 in back taxes and related fees from 2008 and 2009.
The Fifth Quarter is the second downtown bar targeted by city officials as a nuisance this year. Litigation was filed against Studio 4 owners and operators, and the bar on South Fourth Avenue ended up closing amid multiple business issues.