The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in civil court on February 23rd. They claim that the city "targeted" them by police surveillance and numerous citations in an effort to shut them down. They believe that the Mayor, Bill Ham, the City Manager and the Public Safety Director conspired to close down the bar so that condominiums could be built on the site where the SkyBar is located.
The SkyBar is located on Magnolia Avenue, just off of Toomers Corner across from Auburn University's campus and, no doubt, would be an ideal spot for more condominiums.
Of course, no one is talking about the underage drinking that occurs there, the fire code violations (too many people stuffed inside), the numerous bar brawls that have gone on, the destruction of neighboring businesses by the bar's patrons, or the business practices of giving away free drinks of. They think they're trying to be shut down so that yet another more-than-half vacant condo complex can be built in its place. Yeah right. Though the spot would be a good one for housing, Auburn has a serious over-abundance of condos and it seems unlikely to me that they (the city's leaders) would pull a stunt like trying to close a business to build condos that would take years to fill.
I could be wrrong. Mayor Ham has been involved in several private developments both as an investor and as a beneficiary. Could he be using his power and lengthy list of contacts to exercise some influence for his personal gain? Perhaps.
The City Manager, actually both the current manager, Charles Duggan, and the former City Manager, Douglas Watson, were named defendants in the case. Both could stand to benefit (hypothetically) from the bar's closing and a new develpoment constructed. On the other hand, bars in Lee County, and more specifically Auburn, pay a substantial amount of taxes and closing another one would certainly make a dent in the city's revenue.
Now the Public Safety Director, William James... I fail to see where he could gain monetarily by the SkyBar's closing. At least not personally. He's not exactly a real estate mogul and if anything, he could lay off a few employees if he didn't have to keep paying the officers who, it would seem, stake out the downtown nighlife scene, in which the SkyBar plays a huge part of. Now I believe that a police presence downtown is a necessary and for obvious reasons. We as a city, must have uniformed officers patrolling the area. But if you drive by the SkyBar on ANY given night that they are open, you'll see Auburn's finest loitering about near the entrance.
I consider Pat and Dan friends. I think that they are the most successful barkeepers this town has ever seen. Everything they touch turns to gold. They constantly change the properties they own, expanding and renovating to keep things fresh. They don't squander. They reinvest. They're very intelligent businessmen. Have they done some things wrong? Sure. Have they pushed the envelope to the edge with what should be allowed of an alcohol-serving establishment? Oh yeah. Have they paved a rough road for any other potential barowners who will have a rough start with the city, county, and ABC board? Most definitely. But will they survive? You better believe it.
It's not of my opinion that this is a frivolous lawsuit, but if you're a barowner, you don't want to be barking up that tree. Of course, they have outstanding legal representation with Davis Whittelsey. Don't know many other lawyers who would have the balls to sue the city! But I'll tell you this: I'll be watching this one like a sporting event. Should be REAL interesting.