A popular Lake Street bar is taking the city of Minneapolis to court for engaging in what it says was a malicious and racially-motivated scheme to close its doors.
Champions, located on Lake and Blaisdell, filed a lawsuit this morning detailing months of wrangling with police and city licensing officials over the bar's license. Many of the accusations, which include claims of defamation and retaliation, stem from an undercover drug sting that police revealed this March.
The bar claims that the city has attempted to use the sting arrests, as well as a city requirement that bars sell a substantial amount of food, to revoke the establishment's 31-year-old license. The suit says the license is exempt from the food requirement.
“I’ve worked hard all my life, employ over 30 people, and play by the rules,” Champions owner Rick Nelson said in a statement. “I don’t know why they’ve targeted me like this.”
City officials did not immediately respond a request for comment.
The drug sting, which included deals that occurred in the bar, garnered a lot of press attention in the local media. The bar says the sting was conducted by officer Matt Clark in retaliation for Nelson's complaints about crime at a nearby bus stop.
The suit says Clark later defamed the bar during media interviews, calling Champions a "hub for trouble."
The suit alleges that the city then tried to impose "severely restrictive" conditions on the bar after the arrests, later citing them for violating the city's "60/40" rule, which requires bars near residential properties to make 60 percent of their proceeds from non-alcohol sales. Champions contended that it was not subject to this requirement, since their license was approved in 1981.
The 60/40 citation was resolved, according to the suit, but a threat to revoke the bar's license remains in place.