A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by downtown bar Shenanigan’s against the city of Davenport and ex-Alderman Bill Boom that began with a temporary liquor license suspension more than three years ago.
The bar was forced to close for seven weeks beginning in November 2015 after the city exercised its ability to shutter the business by claiming it posed a safety threat. Compensation sought by the bar included reimbursement for lost business that spanned the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, according to court records.
In a written ruling dismissing the case, presiding U.S. District Court Judge Charles Wolfe cited a provision in state law that defines sale of liquor as a privilege instead of a constitutionally protected property interest. His ruling also rejected several other complaints the bar owner brought, including allegations of racial discrimination and procedural errors made on the city’s part.
The ruling was made with prejudice, making a successful appeal unlikely.
Shenanigan’s had accused the city and Boom of improperly suspending the license, alleging Boom used his position of power to influence policy decisions for the purpose of financially benefiting a competing bar he owned. The bar owner also said his establishment was unfairly targeted because most of his clients are African-American, according to court records.
The city, meanwhile, contended the actions taken by the city were made after the bar owner, Burton Davison, was arrested on an assault charge months prior. They also cited several instances where police were called, including a stabbing in October 2015 that happened outside.
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In an unrelated matter, Boom, the former 3rd Ward alderman, pleaded guilty in 2017 to a perjury charge for lying to a federal grand jury about a crystal methamphetamine investigation led by the Scott County Sheriff’s office. He subsequently resigned his seat on the city council.
The Shenanigan’s lawsuit against the city, which lasted nearly two years, is one of several examples where Davenport officials and the bar have been at odds.
In October, Davenport officials opted not to renew the bar’s liquor license, saying the bar owner had not done enough to meet safety concerns in the wake of other law enforcement issues in the area, a decision later overturned by an administrative judge with Iowa’s alcohol control division.
In February, city officials denied the bar an outdoor liquor license request amid the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, citing the same logic.
Alderwoman Marion Meginnis, whose 3rd Ward covers downtown, said during a City Hall meeting last month she hopes the city and bar can find a way to resolve issues without sanctioning the business.
“That would be the great outcome for me,” Meginnis said at the time. “But if it’s not gonna happen that way, I’m gonna have a difficult time supporting anything for them.”