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Minneapolis, MN – Champions Saloon & Eatery (“Champions”) and its owner Rick Nelson filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota this morning because the City of Minneapolis and certain police and licensing officials are abusing their authority and threatening to shut Champions down.
Champions previously enjoyed a very good working relationship with the Commander of the Fifth Police Precinct, Inspector Eddie Frizell, and the police officers under his command. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Matt Clark became Inspector in 2011. When Nelson complained to his City Council Member about crime and drug dealing occurring at the bus stop at the corner of Lake and Blaisdell, Clark launched a “Sting” operation, arrested 14 people on drug charges, and attempted to blame Champions in a press release and media interviews. These events were widely reported by the Twin Cities news media in March 2012 and damaged Champions’ reputation. Of the 14 people arrested, only 2 were convicted in court, and none had any connection to Champions.
“Although we have been cooperating with the police for decades, they made Champions out to be the bad guy,” Nelson said. “Champions has ZERO tolerance for drug activity on its premises,” Nelson continued. “We employ a top-notch security staff and have 14 cameras monitoring the restaurant and bar. We report all suspicious activity to the police, but when we do, they turn around and use records of those 911 calls against us.”
“The City attempted to use the arrests, and charges made up by Grant Wilson and Greg Buenning in the City’s Licensing Department, as ‘grounds’ for attempting to revoke Champions’ liquor license,” explained Champions’ attorney Ed Matthews. “For example, the City cited Champions this past summer for violating the ‘60/40 Rule’ (Minneapolis City Ordinance 362.395), which requires certain restaurants to derive at least 60% of their revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages. The 60/40 Rule, however, does not apply to Champions because, among other reasons, it obtained its liquor license years before the ordinance went into effect.”
“I’ve worked hard all my life, employ over 30 people, and play by the rules,” Nelson said. “I don’t know why they’ve targeted me like this.”
Champions’ 34-page legal complaint details claims for retaliation, defamation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, violation of due process and equal protection rights, conspiracy, and violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Champions tried for months to work things out with the City, but the conditions the City demanded would have forced Champions to close. Champions is a popular restaurant and bar located at 105 West Lake Street in Minneapolis. In 2007, the National Restaurant Association named Champions a finalist in its “Restaurant Neighbor” awards for helping prevent more than 30 drug deals in the area by giving out $2,000 in rewards to those reporting illegal activity.