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Posted on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor officials pursue non-renewal of liquor licenses for downtown bars The Fifth Quarter, ex-Studio 4

By Paula Gardner

Ann Arbor officials are taking the first steps toward what may result in recommendations that the state deny renewal of the liquor licenses of two troubled bars downtown: The Fifth Quarter and the former Studio 4, now operating as Dream Niteclub.

A committee of the city's Liquor License Review Committee met Friday with representatives of both establishments to formally detail the reasons the city is pursuing a denial of the annual renewals.


The Fifth Quarter

Both also have one more opportunity this week to provide evidence to the committee that the respective non-renewal recommendations not take place.

There is a different reason for each: City objections to Dream Niteclub’s renewal stems from unpaid back property taxes, while officials sought the non-renewal for The Fifth Quarter due to numerous police calls to the bar.

In addition, both bars have been targeted with public nuisance lawsuits filed by the city.

The committee will finalize its recommendation to the City Council this week, and the City Council will vote on them at a March 21 meeting. The decision on the licenses renewals will be decided by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Multiple bars in Ann Arbor were notified that their license renewal would be scrutinized because they were behind on personal property taxes, according to city documents. An initial list included Live at PJs, The Arena, Melange, Café Zola, Champion House and Ashley’s, in addition to Dream Niteclub.

Minutes from previous meetings indicate that all except Dream Niteclub's taxes were paid.

Unpaid personal property taxes at the club, 314 S. Fourth, totaled $4,841.06 as of Friday, according to city Treasurer Matt Horning, with amounts due going back to 2009, when it operated as Studio 4.

Jeffrey Mangray said at the hearing that his company, VR Entertainment, managed the club until July 30, 2010, when it signed a lease to assume the space.

“We feel we are responsible (only) for personal property taxes from August to today,” he said.

Court files in the city’s litigation against the bar indicate that VR Entertainment bought the assets of the bar in 2009 from former owners. Bob West, assistant city attorney, accepted multiple documents from Mangray to review.

However, he added, “it’s our position that the operator of this entity has not changed in any respect.”

Mangray has until City Hall closes on Monday to respond with additional arguments, committee chair and Council Member Tony Derezenski said.

The hearing for The Fifth Quarter was adjourned until 2 p.m. Thursday, when police witnesses would be available to provide evidence to the committee.

“It’s an issue of an ongoing series of problems (there),” West said, “an inordinate amount of police response.”

West said the city has compiled a list of 71 incidents over the last 13 months involving the bar and its patrons.

In the lawsuit seeking to have the bar declared a public nuisance, filed Nov. 4, the city had compiled 89 calls for service year-to-date in 2010. The total was 48 in all of 2009.

That litigation — filed against Jeff Starman and Francis Clark, who owned the building at 210 S. Fifth Ave., and Starman and Andrus McDonald, owner of the business — remains active, West said.

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



Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

Johnnya2, there is a major difference between the establishments you mention and these bars: UM, Pioneer, various apartment complexes and the like, do not sell liquor.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

Why should a business be responsible for the actions of its patrons? How many calls were made the the UM in 2010? How many MIPs at football games? How many people possess alcohol in an illegal way on A2 Golf and Outing, the UM Golf Course, and Pioneer high school? That in a total of 8 days a year. I guess Pioneer High is irresponsible? How many crimes happen at specific apartment complexes or neighborhoods. If these owners do not pay their taxes that is an entirely different issue, but the fact is the reason they do not like these bars is because they cater to people of color.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:28 p.m.

"Why should a business be responsible for the actions of its patrons?" A Guide for Liquor Licensees Violence, Fighting,Weapons ? Do not allow fighting, brawling, or the improper use of any weapons on the licensed premises. [Rule 436.1011] It is your responsibility as the licensee to always maintain control of the licensed premises. This means that you and your employees must always be observant of customers and situations.

Marshall Applewhite

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

112,000 people attend Michigan football games each Saturday during the Fall, and I'm not aware of a single incident of someone pulling out a loaded firearm on another attendee. Contrast this with the number of times firearms have been brandished after closing time at these two establishments. I think you'll be shocked at the results.........


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Thanks go to the Liquor License Review Committee and its members. These are clearly not the establishments that Ann Arbor or any other municipality needs. I would encourage that City Council deny reneawal.

Marshall Applewhite

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 2:03 p.m. If possible, could you report back with the contents of this list of 71 incidents? Both of these bars should have been shut down a while ago, and only remain open because of rogue owners who don't really care what type of people and behaviors they're bringing into town.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

The crowd that causes the problems for these establishments will always find a place. This wouldn't be the first time they've moved, let alone between businesses already listed in the article.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying they've ACTIVELY pursuing them. It's gotta be tough to turn down though, guaranteed packed house on a night when most of the city is shut down. I think everyone believes they can handle it better than the last place and it never really works out. I'd be curious to know the breakdown of calls on Sunday night vs. the rest of the nights of the week. I think it would be pretty telling.

Marshall Applewhite

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

I agree, but there are definitely ways to keep this crowd out of the downtown area. The owners of these establishments are actively pursuing this crowd.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

City 'Silly" Council: No problem giving the okay on conference centers that will probably house bars and restaurants serving alcohol, but dragging their feet when it comes to eliminating pests from our downtown? Figures.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

This will be a solid step towards eliminating late night thuggery that has crept into Ann Arbor.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1 p.m.

" crept in " ? who said that they don't already live there ?