Mpls. City Council Denies Liquor License Renewal for Champions Bar

Updated: 03/07/2014 3:06 PM By: Kate Renner

The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to not renew Champions Bar and Grill's license.

Champions Bar and Grill is on the corner of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue and has a troubled past that spans nearly a decade. In the past two years, Minneapolis police say they have been called to Champions Bar nearly 100 times. Some of the incidents involved shootings, drug dealing, dozens of assaults and even one homicide in August 2013.

"We're in a rough neighborhood, and we do the best we can," Rick Nelson, the owner of Champions Bar and Grill, said. But Nelson says most of the illicit activity happens at the bus stop in front of the bar.

Last month, the Minneapolis City Council Regulatory Services Committee voted to recommend the Minneapolis City Council deny the renewal of Champion Sports Bar and Grill's liquor license. The committee says too much violence and drug dealing happens at the bar.

"They've resulted in a danger to the patrons, the neighborhood, and I don't think any taxes generated would undo a homicide," Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey said.

"For the $100,000 in sales tax that was generated (from Champions Bar), how much money was spent by the police department and licensing department to regulate and or control the out-of-control behavior at Champions? I would guess it was 10 plus times that," Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman said.

Nelson says they have invested $100,000 a year for the last seven years in security efforts, including setting up 17 security cameras and hiring six or seven security guards each night.

"We probably spend more money on security than anyone in the city, yet look where it's got us," Nelson said.

Neighbors who occasionally frequent the bar say it only gets dangerous late at night.

"I personally haven't witnessed any illegal activity myself, but it's not the choice place to go for people, but it's definitely a neighborhood bar," Nick, a neighbor, said.

Champions Bar sued the city of Minneapolis more than a year ago alleging that the city was targeting the bar.

The lawsuit is pending all appeals to the liquor license revocation, and the owner of Champions says they will appeal.

See a lawsuit Champions filed against the city of Minneapolis on Dec. 6, 2012, here.