Film accuses city of targeting bars owned by minorities: Alderman calls claims of racism ‘utterly false’

2014-01-11T22:04:00Z 2014-02-26T09:11:28Z Film accuses city of targeting bars owned by minorities: Alderman calls claims of racism ‘utterly false’CARA SPOTO Journal Times

RACINE — A new documentary is expected to claim city officials have discriminated against bars owned by minorities, but officials say every bar is held to the same high standards.

Made by former Downtown developer Jim Spodick, who himself has a checkered relationship with the city, the documentary has been in the works for more than a year.

Called “Pattern or Practice,” the film will be shown at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., at 7 p.m. on Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tickets are $10. The theater was rented out for the Milwaukee premiere, the company that owns the theater confirmed last week.

The movie is expected to allege that the city’s Public Safety and Licensing Committee has shown a history of holding minority-owned bars to different standards than white-owned bars. Those standards have led to a disproportionate number of black- and Hispanic-owned bars having their liquor licenses revoked, according to promotional material for the film.

Alderman Greg Helding, chairman of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee, has called the allegations “utterly false.”

“We discipline license holders when there are threats to public safety, regardless of the race of the license holder or the patrons of the bar or tavern,” Helding said. “The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of taverns, black, white or otherwise, operate without any major instances that have to be dealt with at all.”

Spodick could not be reached for comment, despite numerous attempts over several days.

Available videos

The Journal Times was not able to obtain a full-length copy of the movie, but a reporter was able to view a trailer, available at the documentary’s website,, as well as a fundraising video posted by filmmakers last year. The videos contain snippets of the film, including a handful of interviews with former bar owners.

Bar owners shown in the videos include Thomas Holmes, owner of the former Park 6, 500 Sixth St.; Keith Fair, owner of the former The Place on 6th, 509 Sixth St.; and Wilbur Jones, owner of the former Viper’s Lounge, 501 High St. The videos also contain sound bites from Milwaukee-area attorney Vince Bobot, who represented Fair in his efforts to keep his liquor license; Racine County Board member Ken Lumpkin; and former Racine Alderman Eric Marcus.

Some bar owners simply state that City Hall is racist, while others, like Jones, point to specific issues they had with how their establishment was treated by City Hall. Marcus, who once sat on the Public Safety and Licensing Committee, claims that the committee was not “applying all the rules, across the board, to all bars.”

He later adds that he doesn’t know “what the remedy is for minority bar owners that have their licenses threatened beyond going into the courts.”

In the fundraising video, Spodick states that the film was made to help raise $50,000 so bar owners who have had their licenses pulled can sue the city.

“This is not for the documentary, this is not for attorneys’ fees,” Spodick states in the video. “This is for depositions, investigations; for documentation. There is a lot that goes into this before they can actually reach court.”

Neither video mentions any data or information sources utilized by the filmmakers.

Waiting on data

Police Chief Art Howell declined to comment on the film, stating that it wouldn’t make sense to do so without knowing more. He also said it would not make sense for him to comment on incidents that occurred before his tenure as police chief.

In response to allegations that minority-owned bars receive unfair police attention, Howell said his department holds all licensed establishments to the same standard.

“This year our third-shift commander instituted an aggressive compliance check for licensed premises without bias,” he said, adding that results of those checks varied across the board.

If You Go

WHAT: “Pattern or Practice,” a documentary

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20

WHERE: The Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee


Copyright 2016 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. us citizen
    Report Abuse
    us citizen - January 16, 2014 3:57 am
    @ Mary Kay...
    Where's my money from the city. For every Forth fest parade, traffic camera and police dash board cam!!
    So Mary Kay where's is it???
  2. The1Life2Live4
    Report Abuse
    The1Life2Live4 - January 16, 2014 2:39 am
    Right. Everyone should shut up and trust their local authorities. Its the only way we can keep the status quo going strong!
  3. Kay Nine
    Report Abuse
    Kay Nine - January 13, 2014 11:27 pm
    Aspirin... I need an aspirin.... after reading your post.

  4. Kay Nine
    Report Abuse
    Kay Nine - January 13, 2014 11:25 pm
    Does your bar cause problems for the neighborhood? Do you lack proper security or checkers at the door? Do you neglect to card patrons to weed out underage drinkers? Are your patrons out of control and obnoxious? Are there weekly fights outside of your bar? If you have said yes to any of these questions, get your head out of your a** and do something about it.

    This isn't a case of singling out owners due to race. This is owners making a quick buck with no responsibilities... then hiding behind the race card when anyone complains.

    You can't have a quality city with business owners constantly bringing standards down. Bars do not have to be out of control. They shouldn't be a frenzy of drunks, druggies and gangbangers acting out. Drop the drama and start dealing with the real problems. If anything, make the bar owners hold to higher standards to show the youth in the city that they should also act properly.
  5. JoeRacine
    Report Abuse
    JoeRacine - January 13, 2014 3:28 pm
    My only Hope is that the city of Racine sues spodick and his band of misfits for the slander and lies portrayed in this farce as well as for all of the time wasted to address their false allegations. There is not one shred of truth in this home movie and it just further reveals the true character of those who want to blame and sue someone else for the problems caused by their own actions.

    I will guarantee you that 525 and the others mentioned in the article will not be given the myriad of chances and three years of time to clean up their act before the city takes their license away as they did for all of the past troubled bars. By the way, I hope that you remember that each of these problem bars were given chance after chance to clean up their act only to spit in the face of the city of Racine and it's residents and not do a single thing to address the real problems that they created.

    JT .... with all of the real problems in our community and country, how can you possibly put this trash on the front page? Amazing!

    If you have $10 burning a hole in your pocket, don't waste it and an hour of your life listening to the BS that this home movie spews. Take that $10.... buy some groceries and give it some one who is hungry. I promise you that you will gain from the experience.
  6. Racines Finest Truth
    Report Abuse
    Racines Finest Truth - January 12, 2014 8:14 pm
    Well said
  7. Kate Remington
    Report Abuse
    Kate Remington - January 12, 2014 6:06 pm
    The film is a documentary. There are no actors. These are your neighbors, Mary Kay. that is if you actually live here. The film is powerful. It does not ask you to agree, it asks you to listen. It tells a sad story. And it tells that story without fear.
  8. Mary Kay
    Report Abuse
    Mary Kay - January 12, 2014 3:31 pm
    I hope that the creator of this movie has received release forms from all of the actors in this movie. If he has not, it could cost the City of Racine even more money from lawsuits for showing a film without the actors' permission.
  9. justacitizen
    Report Abuse
    justacitizen - January 12, 2014 12:36 pm
    It's unusual for a racist to acknowledge his or her racism, and I would be astonished to hear a public official confess to it. Most racists believe themselves to be good people, and therefore incapable of an evil such as racism. In their minds, anyone who accuses them of racism is practicing some sort of racism themselves, or "playing the race card."

    When one examines the facts surrounding the closure of nearly 20 minority owned establishments in Racine over the last several years, and compares them to the facts about white establishments that remain open, a disturbing pattern emerges. There is a clear and unmistakable practice of discrimination occurring, which is what I expect will be revealed in this film.

    Have there been incidents at minority owned bars that have been closed? No question. But none that even approach the severity of such things as murder, shootings, beatings and a federal drug raid, that have all happened at white owned businesses which remain open. There is simply no doubt that the laws have been unequally enforced. And the inequality is sustained by a community attitude of Black=criminal thug and White=just being rowdy.
  10. Even More Tired
    Report Abuse
    Even More Tired - January 12, 2014 11:18 am
    No you don't, they are committing disproportionately more crimes!
  11. Even More Tired
    Report Abuse
    Even More Tired - January 12, 2014 11:16 am
    ....and Little Red Riding Hood said Wolf....Wolf....Wolf!!!!!
  12. layedback
    Report Abuse
    layedback - January 12, 2014 9:50 am
    Are you people kidding? The body of customers or patrons caused all the rukus...if the patrons or clientele are of a majority race, so be it...furthermore, if the owners of the establishment where problems occur from their clientele are of a certain race/ethnicity/ be is what it is, or rather what it was...behavior, or the lack of it, became the issue...not race..
  13. ggodmuls
    Report Abuse
    ggodmuls - January 12, 2014 8:22 am
    Greg Helding - The Alderman who is John DIckert's best friend and Racine taxpayers worst enemy because he helped orchestrate the interference in the Bill Bielefeldt lawsuit to ensure that a ruling on John Dickert's status would never happen - thus SHAFTING Racine taxpayers with John Dickerts legal bills - now wants to make more utterly false claims!

    Anybody with a Police Scanner knows that the levels of gun violence, fights, and calls for Police at White owned bars is as much as, if not more than, that at Minority Owned bars. YET - it is mostly silence from The JT and the reports get lost between RPD and CIty Hall.

    Everybody knows, or is at least becoming aware, of the fact that The JT is beholden to it's advertisers due to declining circulation and revenues and so it is forced to NOT report certain information. Sometimes it is more important in what The JT is NOT saying - than what it does say.

    YES - and everybody knows that if I dare mention certain relationships between Tavern Owners and their relatives on the Racine Police Department and the role of Tavern Owners on many of Racine's Boards and Commissions - The JT will remove that comment.

    Let's hope for a Federal Investigation to test the VERACITY of Greg Heldings claims.
  14. Green Racinereal
    Report Abuse
    Green Racinereal - January 12, 2014 7:55 am
    Helding is the same guy who thinks he should be armed at City city council meetings, right?
    Racine the City with huge Race issues. #1 in Unemployment, Horrific outcomes in education and City "Leadership" wanting to loot Native Burial Mounds No race issues here
    The Mayor and Good Old Boys think they can control the Press (that is if you think the J-T is a newspaper) good luck stopping this film from getting out.
    Wait until this hits HBO or say Direct TV (so many outlets looking for content)
    If the Film Maker was vindictive he he set up on line showings for ever Black Member of State Goverment and member of Congress and invite them to come to Racine and see for themselves
  15. DoubleBassFace
    Report Abuse
    DoubleBassFace - January 12, 2014 7:38 am
    First off, I think most people in Racine and especially bar owners would agree, that the City Of Racine is most certainly bias towards certain bar owners as opposed to others, you'd have to either be living under a rock, or have your head buried in the sand to believe otherwise. Fights and shootings continue to occur on a regular basis at downtown bars like Kenny's, Blue Rock and 525, but those white owned bars are still operating. This article is so poorly written, it's really embarressing. If Greg Helding has not seen the film and no one has seen the film, how in the heck could he call allegations "utterly false?" what allegations Helding??? What are they? If you haven't seen the film? It sounds like the only piece of worth in this is Police Chief Howell's comments which basically say, no comment until he sees the film and until he knows more. So lets see, do you believe Greg Helding, or 10 bar owners, multiple county board supervisors, former council members, and various citizens??? Sounds to me that they are scared and using the JT for some kind of damage control. I for one will buy a couple tickets and attend, it sounds to good not to!!! It'll probably win an Oscar!!
  16. Racines Finest Truth
    Report Abuse
    Racines Finest Truth - January 12, 2014 1:16 am
    City hall is racist! They know they planted trouble makers at 2 in the morning to create fights in the street at Park 6. City hall hypnotized these 3 bar owners into doing nothing to control poor and dangerous behavior at their establishments. How racist it is of the city to not hypnotize the "white" owned bars and leave them to suffer with the comfortable and well behaved environment that they created. Spot if should be ashamed of himself. What kind of Keith Fair looser Koop aid are you drinking. It's not asif your reputation wasn't blown already, but to illustrate your strange judgement this way is very telling regarding how you may have come to your legal battles. It's hard to find the energy to even comment about Keith Fair whining. Pathetic lack of accountability, leadership and attempt at a race card. And for the record, the US black population is 13% and boasts an 80%+ incarceration population. Racine is 25% and growing - not that there's anything wrong with that, but the Keith Fairs of the world will continue to promote thug attitudes from positions of power and leave the next generation of young minorities think this is normal. It is not sir. Behave poorly? Then take the medicine and shut up.
  17. A Jelly Doughnut
    Report Abuse
    A Jelly Doughnut - January 11, 2014 11:30 pm
    Maybe the people that patronize these troubled establishments will go see the film, and afterwards a riot and a couple of shootings will break out.
  18. Crazyoldman
    Report Abuse
    Crazyoldman - January 11, 2014 10:55 pm
    Race is a factor. If mostly minorities are in prisons and jail, while constitute less than half of the population, well, you don't have to be a mathematician to do the numbers.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick