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Posted on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

Judge orders troubled Brandy's Liquor Shop in Ypsilanti shuttered for one year

By Tom Perkins


Tom Perkins | For

A Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge has ordered Brandy’s Liquor Shop in Ypsilanti to be padlocked for one year starting Thursday.

In June, the city filed a motion asking Judge Timothy Connors to find Brandy’s owner Sam Hanna in contempt of court for failing to meet several provisions of a March 2009 order to make improvements and clean up the troubled store at 902 W. Michigan Ave.

Most significantly, the city said Brandy’s failed to follow a provision stating “defendants shall continue to take all necessary actions to conduct business in an orderly, lawful, peaceful and quiet manner and not allow or permit any action or behavior on or about the premises that would be a nuisance.”

As part of an undercover raid by the Michigan State Police and Ypsilanti Police Department in August 2010, Brian Hanna, Sam Hanna’s son, was arrested for receiving and selling stolen goods, including liquor, to undercover investigators on five separate occasions.

City Attorney John Barr said during the hearing on Wednesday that demonstrated the store was not lawfully conducting business.

The motion and neighbors living around the store alleged residents have endured regular and open drug dealing, fights, shootings and prostitution, among other issues.

Midtown neighborhood residents demanded swift action from the city and city council following a burst of semi-automatic gunfire outside the store on June 6.

The motion for contempt also charged the store continues selling loose cigarettes, failed to meet with the Midtown Neighborhood Association and failed to meet with police monthly to discuss compliance of the court’s order.

Barr asked Connors to order Brandy’s padlocked for one year, comply with all the court's orders and provide status updates to the court, extend the duration of the court’s order through September 1, 2014, and pay $1,200 in attorney fees.

Connors declared the store a public nuisance, thereby allowing him to order the requested relief of shuttering the store for one year.

Brian Leder, Brandy’s attorney, said after the hearing that the store shouldn’t be declared a public nuisance and ordered padlocked because Hanna was only being held in contempt of court.

He said he believed Hanna should be allowed the opportunity to address the contempt or face a lesser penalty “within confines of the order.”

Connors, however, disagreed. He also disagreed with the defense’s contention that the Ypsilanti Police Department had not done enough to respond to calls or address crime around the store.

Connors also said he didn’t believe the neighbors who testified against the store had any reason to make up anything they witnessed, as was alleged.

“It is very clear from (the neighbors’) testimony that the conditions continue, and I don’t find that the neighbors had some ax to grind such that they were fabricating what they saw, heard or witnessed over a continued period of time,” Connors said.

Connors said there was ample evidence of public urination, prostitution, consumption of alcohol, drug dealing and other illegal activities on the store’s property.

He said he was particularly disturbed by claims that Sam Hanna didn't know about the illegal activities in a "closely held family business," or that the incidents were isolated.

He said the store should have been especially careful given that they were ordered in March 2009 to make improvements.

“The most disturbing thing to me is that while given an opportunity under a consent order ... someone who has been in this business for 31 years claims he didn’t know what was going on or made a poor error of judgment in selling loose tobacco products,” Connors said. “It is almost unbelievable … that could be argued.”

Mike Shecket is president of the Midtown Neighborhood Association. He said he hasn’t lived in the neighborhood long enough to have experienced all of the issues with the store, but he was pleased with the order.

“I’m relatively new to the area, but based on what I’ve heard from my neighbors about the long-term experience, it seems like the right and just thing to do.”

Following the hearing, Leder said he thought a minority of neighbors had done a disservice to the larger community.

“It’s a shame that the opinions of a few will affect the lives of many,” he said.

Sam Hanna had no comment after the hearing. Leder said Sam Hanna can appeal the decision, though he is uncertain if Hanna will.



Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

For those of you who (inexplicably) think the judge has made a mistake in this case, please read the complaints from 2008 that led to the 2009 consent decree, which has ultimately gotten the store padlocked. You'll find: drug sales on the premises and in the store drugs (including crack cocaine) and drug paraphernalia on the premises and in the store employees purchasing stolen merchandise employees improperly selling tobacco prostitution on the premises employees hiding persons wanted by the police in the store's walk-in cooler positioning the store's (court-ordered) security cameras to avoid recording illegal activity disabling the store's (court-ordered) security cameras The people who hang around the store to sell and do drugs, engage in prostitution, engage in other illegal activities and behave in a disorderly fashion do so because the store operators encourage those behaviors and have made it comfortable and safe for them to do so. Stop defending these people; they don't deserve it. Technically, you're right. The STORE is not the problem, but the people running it certainly are. The judge was correct to declare it a nuisance. After all, if it walks like a nuisance and talks like a nuisance, chances are pretty good that it's a nuisance.


Fri, Aug 5, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

How do I say this ? I just wounder if some commenters ( ? ) don't have some sort of vested interest in this place

joe golder

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

Odd how people feel a need to defend Mr. Hanna. He had plenty of chances to turn the situation around and failed miserably. It will provide a challenge for many folks that needed a liquor store in close walking distance. But having said that, there is a lot of positive things happening next door at growing hope that will benefit the midtown neighborhood and local region. It would be nice to see Growing Hope take the space or the co-op branch out. There's a lot of good energy happening there next to that place.

Angela Barbash

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

Thanks for your support Joe :) We (Growing Hope) would love to see an independent grocer come in who is interested in providing locally grown produce, but still offer the traditional items people look for in a party store. Sort of a hybrid model... it's beyond our capacity at this point, but we're hoping someone takes the initiative.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

I wonder what those guys who sit in the yard next door drinking 40's are gonna do now that their source of entertainment is closing down.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

Closing of the store is not going to help - now all that illegal activity will be done around a closed store instead of in it and around it. Blight is coming. What they should do is hire a neighborhood security guard to police the place. Get the kids off the street, stand up to the druggies and take back your neighborhood.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Thank you Judge Timothy Connors. One year for our over-burdened Ypsilanti Police Department to serve and support elsewhere in our city. Kudos to both!


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

To those of you out there who want to pull the race card need to take a good long look at the world today this has nothing to do with race. Gun bullets and drugs don't know any race they kill at random. The Judge did the right thing for the better of the community. If all of you who live in the Ypsi. area are smart you will make sure that this Judge is re elected he is trying to keep everyone safe. What will it take to see that this is for the good of everyone. Possibly an innocent chids life?


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

Roadman, What about the hardship that the Hannas have been imposing on the rest of the community? Drug-dealing, fencing stolen merchandise through their store, obstructing justice, facilitating criminal activities, violating court orders. That doesn't jibe with the whole "fine-upstanding-members-of-the-community" image you seem to be promoting. Do you even live anywhere near this store? Ever been there? The police were called to the store more than 200 times in a single year. How can that NOT indicate a serious problem with this business? The evidence against this crew is pretty overwhelming. Clearly you have an agenda here. What exactly is the nature of the dog you have in this fight?


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

Roadman ok they have the same attitude.But other than taking a shot at her, what does his wife have to do with it ?


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

They have the same attitude. They like to impose punishment as part of their work. Margaret Connors served with Brian Mackie's office for most of her career as an assistant prosecutor in the District Court. She also served as a local hearing panel member of the Attorney Discipline Board. The padlocking remedy will not fight local crime but will only cause futher blight in the area. Connors is a callous judge who apparently does not care about the hardship his ruling imposes on the Hannas. Connors is up for re-election next year; I hope and expect he will be opposed.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Roadman...What does his wife have to do with this ?


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Thi judge should not be re-elected. His performance leaves a lot to be desired. He is an Engler appointee who has aroused the ire of many citizens over the years. His wife, Margaret Connors, was defeated in her quest for an Ann Arbor District Court judgeship in 2008.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Who's pulling the race card ? I haven't ( surprisingly ) seen it yet

Lisa Bashert

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

This is a great decision. I've been a volunteer at the Growing Hope Center for years and biked through the Brandy's parking lot weekly for the past year or so. It always felt like a dangerous atmosphere -- drunk people hanging out of cars or screaming at each other. Talk about contrast! The most positive, hopeful, helpful, community building organization in town, right next to the most negative, community-destroying business! Glad to have Brandy's padlocked -- I'm only sorry it took ten years of violations to get some resolution.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

This is an *excellent* decision by the judge! The neighbors have fought for it for years. The corner is a hellhole. While it's true, those who caused the trouble will relocate. Where is up in the air, and whether they'll all relocate together is another unanswerable question. Whatever ends up opening in that corner, let's all hope it attracts a much better clientele. And as others have said before me, if the owners had done what the judge had told them to do, (meet with the neighborhood association, meet with the police, disallow loitering, etc) they would not have been shut down. He has no one to blame but himself. He needs to take responsibility for his inaction. Hiding his head in the ground like an ostrich and pretending not to see is not an excuse. I hope the judge's ruling stands and I wish it had come earlier. This owner had been given too many chances that he just disregarded.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 11:45 a.m.

I have been to that store many times with only one problem and the owner ordered this person off the property where he ran across the street by the plasma center and was arrested. In his pockets the police took out what looked like white baggies. More closed buildings and business. Get some business and jobs. Quit wasting tax dollars and get jobs. Talk about eyesores all the empty buildings and factories. Get some new people to run for public office. I should write in my cat would do better job.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

Skeet - did you report this incident to the police or just move on? I don't support all the negative and illegal activities, but it seems to me that the owner should be heavily fined and/or jailed. If this results in the store closing, fine. Closing the store for a year seems to not be dealing with the real problems. This also seems to be a problem with the people on the north side of Michigan Avenue not wanting to have to have anything to do with the people on the south side of Michigan Avenue . . .


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

I just peeled out of there!!!! I didn't call the police. In retrospect, I know that I should have reported it. If you drove past that store you would have seen all the kids hanging out in the lot all the time. I assumed the police knew that there was crime goin' on. I mean they are right down the street.

Tim connors

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:47 a.m.

This decision will be turned over on appeal, so fast. The city will continue to throw money at this case and nothing will change. If they spent half as much time patrolling the area as they did attempting to shut down the store there wouldn't be a problem.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:58 a.m.

@Tim connors(sic) Yes, there have been plenty of reversals by the appeals courts of Judge Timothy Connors' rulings over the years. Let us see better patrolling by law enforcement and most problems would likely disappear. How can a store owner be expected to control criminal acts of third parties? The ruling by Connors is ludicrous.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

Just a personal observation as a neighbor who shopped at the store one time and has wondered since at its continued existence: Nobody went to that store twice, unless they wanted to buy something that was, so speak, off the shelf. The one time I went inside, I was reminded quite vividly of the bar scene in Star Wars.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:58 a.m.

Jeez you have spoke up sooner nick. I go in there just to see that sort of ambiance for real. Always been a thrill seeker.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

The store isn't the problem. The patrons are the problem. By closing Brandy's Liquor Store the Magistrate will just be relocating the open drug dealing, fights, shootings and prostitution closer to the EMU Campus area. Tom's & Eagle Markets, Keg Party Shoppe will be the next venues to draw fire. Good luck w/ dat Ypsi Po Po & Judge Timothy! How naive can you get ...


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

Whitney, the owner has no one to blame but himself. Your inability to grasp the man's culpability is astounding.

Whitney Passino

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.

i promose you a judge like that wont be reelected- i hope he hurting for money and has to struggle like that party store owner does now..


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

at least there was a hub for the regular "patrons". now they'll scatter and who knows where they'll relocate. hopefully they will be less confident when they're not in their comfort zone/group.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

unfortunately, this store was part of a serious problem and was not operating according to its permits and licenses. The mounds of evidence, the line of people with specific stories, yeah - happy to have it shut down and hopefully to go away. It was affecting many lives alright - and not in a good way.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:50 a.m.

@McKeen, sorry to say Brandy's did no service to the poor. I think the word is exploit . When you sell items that were stolen from others, allow gang activity, drug sales, and prostitution....and Mr Hanna can't just slip across to Cal's


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

Time for a 7-Eleven!


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

Good!! It was scary just having to stop at the traffic light near the store.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:14 a.m.

Closing the store will indeed only make the blight worse. This is yet another example why Judge Connors should be voted out of office when he is up for re-election next year. For more examples of unfair rulings by Judge Connors see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

No, the most inconsiderate thing to do is to permit such irresponsible conduct to continue. If the owner had taken action to remove the hooligans from his business the place would still be open.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

So people should still be permitted to buy fenced items, shoot off semi-automatic guns, and hold people up? In light of the above, please explain how it is going to get WORST, Roadman.

Whitney Passino

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

id like to see a judge have to work for a living and see if its funny to be shut down - thats the most inconsiderate thing to take an american mans livly hood away

Ryan Munson

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

I went in this store once because I needed to buy some bread when I used to live on Pearl St. I walked in and the environment of the store made me feel like I was going to get robbed by another customer because of the like that were hanging around in a group swearing openly and being quite loud. That was the last time I ever set foot on their premises. I used to also go running and the store was on my path for a rather large loop around the area. There was often a lot of noise coming from loud car music systems, people yelling out in the parking lot, and all kinds of what appeared to be useless mischief.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I feel ya, Ryan. I went into this store 1 time when I lived at Normal and Pearl to buy... liquor. Anyway, on my way in and out I was hassled like crazy for some money by guys standing right outside the door. Never went back again.

Darth Pablo

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 2:59 a.m.

&quot;Everyone knows that Liquor stores sell the best bread in town. If you cant make a sandwich on melba toast, well, your'e not trying hard enough&quot; -Hal from Malcom in the Middle

Steve McKeen

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

I find it appalling that these people would want to close a business in this economy -- a business that serves the poor in the community. And people wonder why Ypsilanti has a bad reputation for being unfriendly to businesses. Closing the store is only going to make the blight worse in that neighborhood, but it's what the neighbors wanted, so they deserve all the new problems that go along with it. I hope Mr. Hanna opens up across the street in the old Cal's building.

Monica R-W

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 6:36 a.m.

Steve, If Mr. Hanna didn't want his business closed, he would have complied with the various orders by the City of Ypsilanti and, city laws enforced by Ypsilanti Police Department. Just because Mr. Hanna can lease a building to operate a business, doesn't give him right to conduct his services (a retail store) with complete disregard of the surrounding community. If you are concerned about poor residents on and near the South Side of Ypsilanti access to retail up a store which operates with respect for the surrounding community. Until that point, each resident whether rich, middle or lower class will be better served by the temporary removal of this &quot;business owner&quot; from the Midtown/South Side community.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

Your post is a strange one, Mr. McKeen. It is a liquor store, not a grocery store. So you think serving the community alcohol is a GOOD thing? Drunk driving, domestic violence, alcoholism..poor communities suffer from these alcohol-related maladies at a higher rate than more affluent communities. If you care about the community, you should try to find a way to open a grocery story on that spot so the poor can have easy access to nutritious food that doesn't leave them drunk and destroys their liver.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

This has nothing to do with a legal enterprise. All of the illegal activity around the business is the focus of the judge's order.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

I hope this store never opens again. A person pulled a handgun on me when I got out of my car in the parking lot. A police officer drove by and the guy turned his head to watch the police car. I was able to drive off without anything happening. It seemed like the store employees knew the kids outside and had no problem with them loitering around. There was too much activity that had nothing to do with the store going on in the parking lot.

Angela Barbash

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Glad to see that the community members, children, staff and volunteers at the Growing Hope Center just down the street from Brandy's will at least have a year reprieve from these issues. Thank You Judge Connors, from a Growing Hope Board Member.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

As bad as these violations seem to be, it still would be better than even money this party store succeeds &quot;to take all necessary actions to conduct business in an orderly, lawful, peaceful and quiet manner and not allow or permit any action or behavior on or about the premises that would be a nuisance.' before Timmy Conners, himself, does first.

Rodney Nanney

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

&quot;Following the hearing, Leder said he thought a minority of neighbors had done a disservice to the larger community.&quot; That's very funny. It is Mr. Hanna who has run his business in a predatory manner, and who has done a disservice to the Midtown neighborhood and the Ypsilanti community. He had nearly a decade of warnings and slaps on the wrist before today's decision. At any point he could have corrected his path and changed his business practices to become an asset to the area, but he chose not to do so.

Thomas Jones

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

GOOD!!! This store is gross! and an eye soar! Shut them down for good!


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.