Manors Fires Back  

Ballz Bar, before it was shut down, Photo Via Yelp

 A month ago, nightclub owner Sean David made news by filing a lawsuit against the city of Wilton Manors, accusing its staff of sabotaging his efforts to open a bar in the island city, back in January of 2017.

David filed claims accusing the city of permitting staff and law enforcement to intimidate and harass him personally, with the purposeful intent of ruining his business plan. The bar closed after only three months of operation.

The 12-page lawsuit, filed by attorney George Castrataro, accused the city generally, and community development director Roberta Moore particularly, of intentionally chilling David’s First Amendment rights.

Castrataro claimed the city repeatedly threatened and warned David “that the city does not want a male go-go bar on Wilton Drive,” and “it would get shut down.” 

The complaint read that the city “barged into the club with law enforcement on a nightly basis.” 

The suit  further alleges that “the relentless nightly harassment continued for four months straight,” and that “nearly every customer complained to David the business was being harassed.”

Castrataro summarized the police activity as a complete sham, and a mere pretext to “intimidate and drive away customers for the sole purpose of forcing the plaintiff to close his business.” 

Castrataro remarked that the city incorrectly concluded David would open up a strip club, due to his past ownership of the Boardwalk, then Johnny’s, and present proprietorship of Le Boy, each featuring male dancers.

“Ironically,” Castrataro stated, “the city got it wrong all along. David wanted to diversify his holdings and open up a sports bar.” 

Finally, the complaint said the city was depriving David of use of his property, without due process of law, and asked for damages and attorney’s fees. 

Well, the city’s attorneys do not exactly agree, to say the least.

Representing the City of Wilton Manors, attorney Christopher Stearns fired back a steaming 15-page motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming it was specious, without legal merit, and “fails to state a single valid claim upon which relief can be granted.”

Citing dozens of legal precedents and prior judicial rulings in his memorandum of law, Stearns claimed the plaintiff was not denied “fundamental rights” or “equal protection of the law.”

Stearns noted the standards for arguing “invidious discrimination” required meeting a legal threshold that the “plaintiff did not meet.”

 Going out of his way to put the response in bold print, Stearns rebuffed Castrataro by arguing that his lawsuit was “devoid of ANY allegations of fact that the city of Wilton Manors engages in a custom of violating residents’ first, fourth, or fourteenth amendment rights.”

The city’s reply said that since “No facts were alleged, no due process claim can stand,” suggesting the court should on its own throw out the lawsuit.

 The city also attacked the claim that its actions were retaliatory, or that David’s First Amendment rights were inhibited in any way by the conduct of any city official or employee. Their reply takes the position that nothing they did in response to the club’s opening was “an adverse action prohibited by the first amendment.”

The city of Wilton Manors also stated that David’s claim failed to show his business was treated any differently than any other business similarly planning an opening, and that there was no discrimination against him, along with the fact that his complaint is absent a single affidavit or document showing otherwise.

Stearns raised procedural claims as well, arguing that if David has any remedy at all, he would have to make his claims in state court first, since the city’s actions are properly reviewable there. 

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: The motion to dismiss is now under judicial review by United States District Judge William Dimitrouleas, assigned randomly to hear this cause of action. He can set it for a hearing or rule on his own.

 

If the motion to dismiss is granted, the plaintiff is generally given an opportunity to amend or better articulate their claims.

 

If the motion is denied, the defendant is ordered to file an answer to the claims.


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