Fifth Quarter nightclub in downtown Ann Arbor officially closes after string of problems, lawsuits
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
An owner of the Fifth Quarter nightclub building in downtown Ann Arbor confirmed today the troubled establishment at 210 S. Fifth Ave. officially has closed its doors for business.
City officials consider that good news, given the many problems the city and its police department have had with the club in the past few years.
The club recently was listed for sale for $1.8 million. City officials have been in talks with club owners about the possible non-renewal of the bar's liquor license due to numerous police calls to the location.
A college student from Livonia also recently filed a lawsuit saying that at least two bouncers at the club severely beat and choked him last year, then threw him out on the street while he was unconscious.
The building is owned by 210 South Fifth Ave LLC, an entity registered to Jeff Starman, who confirmed today the decision to close the club after a string of problems.
"We have closed Fifth Quarter," Starman said. "The property and the business is under contract to be sold. There will be a new establishment some time in the future there, by September."
Kristen Larcom, senior assistant city attorney, said that's good news for the city, but referred comment to Police Chief Barnett Jones, who could not be reached.
Starman said the club probably would have been forced to shut down.
"We decided this unilaterally, but we also felt like we didn't have a choice," he said, expressing regret that the club found itself in the position it did.
"Obviously, no one likes to have bad things happen," he said. "Things could have gone better from all sides. Obviously, we'd have liked it to be successful and have a long run, but it didn't seem to happen. Ultimately, we just decided it wasn't the right kind of place. I don't think that kind of place fundamentally fits in with what Ann Arbor wants."
Starman added he thought "90 percent of the nights were great and the 10 percent that were bad were bad." He said the new establishment will be a "very different kind of place," and it won't be a nightclub at all. It'll be more of a bar and restaurant, he said.
Fights, assaults by staff and incidents of over-serving customers prompted Ann Arbor officials to ask owners and management to stem the problems in the downtown nightclub last year.
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 in November against the business and the owners of the building that houses it. The lawsuit is still pending.
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 city asked the owners to get rid of bouncers who were too aggressive, institute staff training to monitor for over-intoxication and discontinue Sunday night events.
As of Oct. 25, police had responded to 89 calls for service at the bar, compared to 48 for the full year of 2009.
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, fights inside and outside the bar and the crowd hindering efforts to help a woman who’d been assaulted.
- July 19, 2010: Police closed the bar and a portion of South Fifth Avenue after large crowds were fighting inside the bar and nearby.
- July 24, 2010: 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, 2010: 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, 2010: A week later, Ann Arbor police asked other agencies to join them at closing time, but the group of 20 officers couldn’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.
Starman and a business partner bought the building in 2006, according to city records.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.