RACINE — The city’s Public Safety and Licensing Committee has decided operators of an Uptown bar are not responsible for a shooting at an adjacent lot. But the City Attorney’s Office said the incident could still be held against the operators if they’re brought before the committee again.
Owner Jacqueline Lagrone, Truth Sports Bar, and her son Malachi Muhummad were called before the committee on May 14 for their second formal appearance after a shooting occurred at a city-owned parking lot at 1429 Ann St., which is across an alley behind the bar, 1436 Junction Ave.
The bar owners were brought before the committee for the first time in February after a complaint that it had opened without a occupancy permit. Muhammad said that when they received their liquor license, a member of city staff told them they could open, which he chalked up to a misunderstanding. When they realized they needed an occupancy permit, the owners filed for one.
A second appearance before the committee normally requires the owners to meet with the City Attorney’s Office. But after discussion, the committee voted to receive and file the complaint, essentially requiring no action.
“I think the committee was premature calling this applicant in,” said Alderman Sandy Weidner of the 6th District. “They should be allowed to give perspective on the incident, like they did tonight ... I just don’t think this is warranted.”
Attorney Nhu Arn from the City Attorney’s Office said that while the bar owners are not required to meet with city staff regarding the incident, if the committee requests the owners appear a third time before Jan. 22, 2020, it would be considered their third appearance in a one-year period, prompting a referral to the City Attorney’s Office for disciplinary proceedings.
A grey area
Muhammad was frustrated that the bar was named in an incident report and then called in to speak before the committee. The incident report stated that one witness said they saw the victim of the shooting at the bar that night but the victim told officials that he was on his way to the bar and had stopped at the parking lot to speak with some women when he was shot.
“Why, in this particular situation, are we being called in when it did not happen at our bar?” said Muhammad.
Arn said there is no ordinance that determines how close or far from a bar an incident has to be to be attributed to that establishment.
Muhammad argued that there should be such an ordinance, and said that he had contacted Mayor Cory Mason and state Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, to complain about the lack of clarity.
“I think it’s unfair to business owners,” said Muhammad. “Where’s the due process before we go to the City Attorney’s Office?”
Muhammad said it was particularly frustrating for them because of all the safety precautions they had taken.
The bar has two off-duty Racine police officers working security Thursdays through Sundays, one of whom called in the shooting that night. The Police Department permits officers to park squad cars outside, signaling to the community the police presence in the bar.
“We have a squad car in front and a squad car in back to show people how serious we are,” he said.
Muhammad said they also use an app called Bar & Club, which scans IDs and will flag anyone who has been kicked out of that bar or other bars.
“If you get in a fight, you’re not coming back,” said Muhammad. “We want to make sure people are safe.”
They don’t serve glass bottles because they don’t want to have any incidents with broken glass and, after the shooting, they installed security cameras.
“This is so disheartening for us,” said Muhammad. “I don’t know what more we can do.”
“Why, in this particular situation, are we being called in when it did not happen at our bar?” Malachi Muhammad, operator of the Truth Sports Bar