Racine minority tavern owners claim racism in federal lawsuit

CREATED Feb 26, 2014

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RACINE – Six downtown Racine minority bar owners contend they had to close because city and business leaders made running their taverns so difficult.  They filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday.

Community journalist Ken Lumpkin has been following these claims for years.

“They just want to expose the problem and make sure everyone gets a fair shake,” Lumpkin told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.  “Seems like they wanted to move minorities from downtown and bring in development.”

Attorneys are advising the tavern owners involved in the suit not to speak publicly.  But, several of the owners made allegations of racism in a documentary called ‘Pattern or Practice’.

 “They accused me of having a shooting around my bar which was actually 9 blocks away from my bar,” Wilbur Jones, owner of Viper Lounge, said in the film.

The 50-page court filing accuses city leaders of targeting the tavern owners by issuing citations for minor violations, encouraging anonymous callers to phone in complaints and ultimately denying liquor licenses.

The city denies any wrongdoing.

“The city is adamant that it was not involved in any discrimination and will have no further comment at this time,” city administrator Tom Friedel told reporters.

Friedel said Mayor John Dickert, who is named in the lawsuit, canceled his afternoon meetings at city hall and went to Madison.