RACINE — Malachi Muhummad, manager of Zodiac Bar, 607 Sixth St., said that if he had known putting “Stripper Saturday” on flyers advertising a Nov. 2 appearance by Jessica Dime, also known as Dimepiece, would have brought him before the city Public Safety and Licensing Committee, he would not have done it.
The event advertised did not involve live adult entertainment but was an opportunity for fans of Dime, a star of the reality TV show “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” who is open about being a former stripper.
Based on that flyer, two Racine Police officers arrived that day to check if there was stripping and left reporting no violations. Muhummad said he learned his lesson from the incident.
“That’s why I didn’t use (the phrase) this past weekend when we had a celebrity from the same reality franchise who had the same background,” he told the committee.
But the stripper advertisement, though the most concerning, wasn’t the only issue that brought the bar’s owners to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee on Tuesday. Some of the bar’s neighbors had complained about noise, people exiting the back entrance onto Seventh Street and reported a “Taco Tuesday” event that for which Muhummad thought they had a license.
The committee decided to rescind the formal expression of concern, which would have been the owners’ third. Instead they required the owners to attend a “good neighbor meeting” where they meet with representatives from the city’s health, police and fire departments and the city attorney’s and city clerk’s offices, to go over the rules and requirements of their business and particular license.
Good neighbor meetings are a recent requirement for new businesses to ensure their owners understand all the rules before opening, which the Zodiac owners did not initially have to attend because their license was transferred from the former Truth Sports Bar at 1436 Junction Ave.
Tweaking the process
Muhummad and his mother, Zodiac owner Jacqueline Lagrone, operated Truth Sports Bar, which opened about a year ago in Uptown. They went before the committee on Oct. 8 requesting transfer of their liquor license from the Uptown location to their new bar on 607 Sixth St., which they named Zodiac. The transfer was approved by the City Council at its Oct. 15 meeting.
Muhummad and Lagrone were called before the Public Safety Committee twice before. The first time was in February, for a report that they were operating without an occupancy permit, which Muhummad said was due to a misunderstanding. They filed for one when they realized they needed it.
The second was for a shooting that occurred at a parking lot on Ann Street across the alley from the bar. A man told police he was going to Truth Sports Bar when he stopped to speak with some women and was shot by someone driving by on Ann.
At that meeting, the committee decided the bar was not responsible for the incident and the report should be received and filed. Normally if an establishment if brought before the committee twice within six months they are referred to the City Attorney’s office for disciplinary proceedings, but the committee decided it was unnecessary in that case.
However, Nhu Arn of the City Attorney’s Office told The Journal Times that if they were brought before the committee again before Jan. 22, 2020, it would be considered their third appearance in a year.
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Since the owners’ last appearance, the committee and city staff have tweaked the system to avoid punishing businesses unnecessarily. In order to avoid appearances stemming from misunderstandings, they created the good neighbor meetings so business owners understand the rules from the outset.
Also, appearances before the committee no longer automatically count against those business owners; the committee can rescind the expression of concern if they feel the owners were able to adequately explain the incidents. That is what the committee voted to do Tuesday with Muhummad and Zodiac.
The most-cited complaint about the bar from its neighbors is the noise, particularly the bass in music played late at night.
Mercedes Dzindzeleta attended the meeting and said when they first opened, she was able to hear the bass from her home office on Seventh Street. She said she was also awakened in the middle of the night the first weekend the bar was open and saw people exiting from the bar’s back exit onto Seventh Street. She said those people went to cars parked in her private lot and drove away.
She hasn’t had a repeat of those issues since, but Dzindzeleta said she would like to participate in the good neighbor meeting so they can find a way to ensure the issues don’t arise again.
Another incident involved a former couple, with a restraining order barring the ex-girlfriend from approaching the ex-boyfriend. Muhummad said he knows the ex-girlfriend and he told her that if her ex-boyfriend arrived, one of them would need to leave. When the ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend arrived, they got into a verbal argument and Muhummad said he kicked them and the person with the ex-boyfriend out of the bar.
He later saw them being handcuffed by police near the roundabout but said nothing physical had happened at the bar. Muhummad said the ex-girlfriend has been banned from entering the bar.
Another issue involved a Taco Tuesday event the owners held on Nov. 26. Zodiac doesn’t have a license to prepare food on the premises but it can serve catered food; it also has a license to prepare food at the former Truth Bar location. The way they tried to make it work was that Lagrone prepared all the taco ingredients at the Junction Street location, then it was served at Zodiac.
A Health Department official arrived and said they were unsure whether Muhummad combining the food — essentially building the tacos — was allowed under their license. Muhummad said he decided to close the event just in case.
Alderman Maurice Horton of the 7th District recommended that Muhummad and Lagrone ask a lot of questions during the good neighbor meeting so they don’t have to come before the committee again.
“Ask every question you can ask at that meeting,” said Horton. “Ask the questions and follow the rules.”