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Posted on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor files lawsuit to close The Fifth Quarter after problems persist at downtown bar

By Paula Gardner


A lawsuit seeks to have The Fifth Quarter declared a public nuisance.

Paula Gardner |

Fights, assaults by staff and incidents of over-serving customers already prompted Ann Arbor officials to ask owners and management at The Fifth Quarter to stem the problems in the downtown nightclub earlier this year.

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:

• Get rid of bouncers that were too aggressive. • Institute staff training to monitor for over-intoxication. • 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:

• 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. • July 19: Police closed the bar and a portion of South Fifth Avenue after large crowds were fighting inside the bar and nearby. • 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.” • 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. • 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.

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Sun, Nov 21, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

Honestly this place should be shut down because of the sheer number of under age kids that they serve. If they just walked around and found the kids being served there would be plenty of reason to quickly take away its liquor license and then not have a problem with the bar.


Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 1:07 a.m.

it is obvious from reading that the owners met with the police and acknowledged problems yet by their actions had no intentions to change the operation of the place. At that point the bar operator probably just figured he would force the city to close them down and would milk the cash cow for as long as possible.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

Someone needs to contact Dalton, now that he is done cleaning up the Double Deuce. He's the ultimate Cooler. All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

Sure they're responsible for an inordinate number of calls for police service but look at the bright side: They're so close to the police station!

Somewhat Concerned

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 3:19 p.m.

Close it. Ban the owners / operators from receiving another license anywhere in Ann Arbor.

Silly Sally

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

Clearly far too many of those who patronize this bar can't behave, especially after having drinks. If certain segments of society cannot behave in public, they need to be stopped. The city is correct in doing so. "A bar that is largely frequent by young minorities,..." If those who misbehave are "young minorities", so what. Does being a "young minority" mean that you have a "do not go to jail" card? One report said that 20 having police officers outside during the closing time was not enough of a deterrent, and crime still happened. Of course, it would have been far better if many were hauled off to jail.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:34 p.m.

I think this lawsuit will actually boost business since it is a hot spot.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Speechless, what kind of politically correct attempt at explaining Racers comment do you call your first paragraph? Do I need to make it more clear for you, or more black and white?????? It has nothing to do with infringing on the "townies" aka upper class on Main St whom ARE a mixed group off all sorts NOT just white, and it has nothing to do with being "outside" the unofficial line drawn in the sand that delineates the student section. It has to do with a large crowd, who the majority of, happen to be black, (everybody got silent, there eyes got wide, he said it) that amass at these two bars and fight and fight and well, fight. I've personally witnessed it multiple nights on multiple weekends all summer long. It's like a free for all at closing time.. No one goes home, everyone gets pushed out of the club and everyone is standing around in the streets yelling and screaming and jumping up and down and then the fighting starts. It's on fifth ave, it's on liberty, it's in the parking lot behind the post office, its in the parking structure. Cop cars, ambulances, fire fighters, scared townies, people bleeding. What I DONT see, this happen every weekend at score keepers, good time charlies, ricks, necto, pj live, cavern club, conner oneils,or Heidelberg. Soooooo..........people can call it what they wish or speculate all they want as to what "they" believe the reason is. Ive seen it over and over again. I know and I'm sorry im not that politically correct. It is what it is......


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

I have been hungry for a local "den" of iniquity for quite some time, but until this story I have had to settle for City Hall. I am happy this location has now been brought to my attention. I surely will be spending plenty of time and money there, now that I know. My fingers will be crossed that all the tough customers who back the Second Amendment with letters to will also show up. However, it is cruelly disappointing to find out about this mecca two weeks after the lawsuit was actually filed. If published on a monthly basis, perhaps it would offer less stale news. Meanwhile, if the city's efforts to close the joint bear fruit, perhaps the bouncers could seek employment as turnkeys in the County Jail. I have been told there is always room for one more there, and I believe the county will actually provide electrical devices.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 2:11 p.m.

A friend of mine's son got assaulted and robbed by the aggressive bouncers at that club last Sunday night. He ended up in the hospital. Close it.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

5th Quarter is always way too packed. Personally, it is my favorite dance bar to attend on weekends. It should, however, be 21+. The youngsters are usually the ones causing trouble or irritating older individuals. Lets face it - even if you're not 21 - its not that hard to get booze at a bar. Considering 5th Quarter is always so full - I don't think the place will lose much by changing the minimum age. I know for a fact that some people refuse to go because 5th Quarter allows those under 21 to enter. We want a classy bar where we can dance and not have to worry about underage kids. Shouldn't be that hard to do.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 12:35 p.m.

One thing I believe racerx is getting at in the first comment at top is that the city in the past has been noticeably tolerant toward these kinds of behaviors inside and outside campus bars that cater to kids from middle class backgrounds (and whose parents can more easily afford lawyers). The immediate vicinity of such places is best avoided on a busy drinking night, but that's rather easy as they're located within student commercial areas. That said, there are a couple things that do distinguish the trying situations at The Fifth Quarter and the former Studio 4 from problems experienced in the past at establishments like Necto, Dooley's, et al. First, the scale of the same kinds of problems appears to be larger, and these issues spill outside. Second, these two clubs situated themselves just beyond the State St. campus commercial zone and onto the periphery of the Main St. downtown district — where the townies begin to take notice of problematic situations. That is, if a bit of mayhem occurs at Scorekeepers (Dooley's) near to closing on a busy weekend night, it may well fall off the radar for non-student residents.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

Starman and Clark also own Madison Property Company and Arch Realty, respectively. Andrus McDonald has been involved in a number of Detroit area bars including Envy, Honey, and the Shelby Street News Bar & Grill. As a side note, when 502 Packard was targeted by the City as a drug den, Arch Realty was appointed receiver until the place was sold or cleaned up. I believe they no longer manage it. Although Clark and Arch Realty are not noted for their stellar landlording abilites they really have no hand in the operations of the Fifth Quarter. McDonald and his "nightclub expertise" was the one brought in to run the show. But I guess if your name is on the liquor license, as Starman is finding out, you are responsible as well. Plus, according to, McDonald is involved in bringing a bar to the old Leopold Bros site on S.Main. We'll see how that one flies.

Tom Joad

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

That bar is a blight on the downtown landscape. I'd suggest staying away from there anytime after 11pm on a Sunday night when the crowds from Ypsi frequent the place. The owners do not even take care of the sidewalk in front of their business...there are several large concrete squares that need to be refilled with brick, as it is now it's a lawsuit waiting to happen. One Sunday night they must have closed the bar early because there was a mob of angry bar patrons rumbling down the alley behind the joint.

Lets Get Real

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

Let's Get Real about this story. Rather than expend enormous amounts on legal proceedings, the city needs to take a look at other models that have produced better results. Boulder, CO - a small college city, not unlike Ann Arbor - has instituted a mandatory ordinance: all servers in all establishments serving alcohol, must be educated in a program that teaches them to understand the legal ramifications of overserving, teaches them to recognize the behaviors associated with phases of intoxication, gives them strategies and tactics to refuse services, and teaches them how to properly document actions in the establishment's daily log. Wouldn't a proactive approach benefit Ann Arbor too? Seems it would be better than the massive expenditure of police, fire and legal resources we are currently pursuing. There are experts in this field. One, who is leading the effort in Boulder and who offers consulting and approved TIPS training for servers, is an Ann Arbor native. With 12 years of experience in the food, beverage, and liquor industry, Jon Balliet of Wine Dark Sea Consulting, is uniquely positioned to help Ann Arbor with this dilemma. Time to seek out help who knows the town, knows the industry, and who has a strategy that can move AA toward a solution. Let's Get Real! It's time to Look him up:, invite him in, listen to his expertise, and initiate change.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

Wow, racerx, thanks for that concise breakdown of the issue. I did not realize that "they" were trying to systematically take away "young minorities" drinking spots. I agree with you that they should station one cop at each bar and frat house to enforce the new "no glass bottles" law (they should get that passed)to make sure things don't get out of hand. A firefighter could be assigned to each bar to insure they don't go over capacity. I agree that none of this is the establishment's responsibility; it is clearly a breakdown on the City's part and the police department should do "more up front before problems get out of hand." Regarding 502 Packard - "But until the issue became a problem for selling drugs to UM students it flourished." I hadn't heard that but I am sure you have a factual basis for that statement. I, ridiculously, thought that LAWNET was then staffed by AAPD "city" officers? Sincerely, Another bitter person with an inflated ego and a conspiracy theory.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 11 a.m.

I was in this bar once upon a time. The place reminded me of the bar in the original Star Wars movie. What I saw; was the usual smugglers, rebels and outcasts from other planets. Whats a city without a few dens of iniquity?


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

Time for the city or DDA to acquire the building and turn this block of Fourth into a true bus mall.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

Can reporter find number police call in year for other bar?


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

@racerx Sure, turn it around. So, it's the city's fault that these bar owners are unable to run their establishment in a safe and lawful fashion? So, it's the city's fault that the clientele isn't sofisticated enough to have a few drinks, dance & have some fun, without fighting and involving themselves in depraved behavior? You might want to reflect on personal responsibility before tarnishing the reputation of the AAPD. The other bars to which you refered made the necessary changes to alter the climate of their establishments.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

I've been to this bar a couple of times, and the crowd this place attracts is a real head scratcher. The "fighting and breaking bottles" community doesn't seem to mesh well with the Ann Arbor community. Side note, the whole "race is an issue" argument needs to go away in stories such as this one. Obviously there is enough evidence that this place is out of control, regardless of what race the patrons are.

Atticus F.

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. -Obi-Wan Kenobi


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

@racerx, Who do you think the cops in LAWNET are that enforce Ann Arbor? They're Ann Arbor cops along with State Police. Doesn't sound like you know too much about what you are talking about.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

$150,000 in back taxes should be enough to shut it down. WAY too many resources being directed to keep this place in line for it to stay open.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

"largely frequent by young minorities"...... I missed this part of the reporting. With all the serious and dangerous infractions listed against this establishment it is ridiculous to point to other businesses. I am just surprised that it would be this difficult to take action against them.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:50 a.m.

Exactly that, Homeland Conspiracy, young minorities. All evidence and behavior leans toward closing down this pit of depravity, sooner rather than later.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 7:04 a.m.

Gee I wonder what "young minorities" is code for?


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 6:54 a.m.

They owe ~$150,000 in back taxes? If they can't keep the place in check without costing the city thousands, then yes, shut it down.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 6:16 a.m.

Here we go again A2. A bar that is largely frequent by young minorities, as with Studio 4, is being closed by the city. Was there this much of an effort when Dooley's nee Scorekeepers, Necto were/are having the same issues? How about the bar across from Pizza House? Are there just as many issues? What about frat houses? Stop serving beer in glass bottles will go a long way, and enforce strict limits on capacity. Where's the Fire Dept? They're just a block away, make a surprise visit! If the cities goal is to curb activity for young minorities and where they can drink, they are moving in the right direction. Same as with the 502 Packard St. Most in the city knew it was a drug den, but until the issue became a problem for selling drugs to UM students it flourished. And, the city cops didn't bust the place, but LAWNET did. Again, A2, with a keystone cop police force, you're simply just reacting instead of doing more up front before problems get out of hand.